VOAIsn’t it nice to be surprised? After Visions Of Atlantis’ first two releases I rather dismissed them as Nightwish wannabes and confess that I didn’t bother listening to anything after (though I was very saddened to hear of the death of their vocalist from those two albums last year). But now Nightwish sound less like Nightwish than Xandria’s last CD did – much in the genre is changing – and so maybe it was time to give VOA another go – and I’m really glad I did!

The first thing that sets them aside is their use of CLEAN male and female vocals. VOA share them out equally too, like Lacuna Coil, and yes there are some slight similarities, but only really pre-Comalies. The band VOA really remind me of though is a lesser known German act called Regicide – especially on the tracks ‘Vicious Circle’, ‘Tlaluc’s Grace’ and ‘Clerics Emotion’. I think VOA have nicely carved themselves a niche here (so much so, that I have just read that Regicide have reformed! Just coincidence?) and really they don’t sound like anyone else around at present. Musically they cover lots of bases from current bands like All Ends through Beseech (reminiscent in their occasional use of drum loops, effects and the odd sample), with a Lullacry type attitude (‘AEON 19th‘ especially) and of course the aforementioned early Lacuna Coil (highlighted nicely and to both extremes on ‘Avatara’ and ‘Cave Behind The Waterfall’). But VOA always keep their own identity.

This is one immensely enjoyable album, expertly crafted and a real grower too! I’m enjoying the fact that all the female fronted stuff I have heard recently seems to be shying away from the ‘Gothic Metal’ tag – maybe the record company demand of “You must sound like Evanescence or Nightwish” has finally worn off. Bands like Visions Of Atlantis are once again being allowed to find their own identity and with the backing of an open-minded label such as Napalm, the future of female fronted Metal certainly looks brighter!

(7/10 Andy Barker)