rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Pirates Will Return
02. Melancholy Angel
03. Master The Hurricane
04. Clocks
05. Freedom
06. Legion Of The Seas
07. Wild Elysium
08. Darkness Inside
09. In My World
10. Mercy
11. Heal The Scars
12. I Will Be Gone

Like any enduring metal subgenre, symphonic metal needs its standard bearers. VISIONS OF ATLANTIS may have started off following directly in NIGHTWISH's footsteps, but the Austrians have steadily grown in stature and "Pirates" arrives as the wind billows aggressively in their sales.

The band's last album, "Wanderers", was a number one smash in Germany, which should give you some indication of how big they currently are, and how much bigger they could potentially be. As most of symphonic metal's biggest names have either undergone a breathless modernization or veered away on some progressive tangent, VISIONS OF ATLANTIS have stuck to the original script and worked tirelessly at refining a long-established but still malleable sound. As an added bonus, "Pirates" is their second album with a settled front line: the way Clémentine Delauney and "Meek" Guaitoli's voices blend is genuinely magical at certain points, and this album's biggest songs shine brightly as a result.

There are no radical departures from what we heard on "Wanderers" here, but the enhanced quality of these songs is self-evident. "Pirates" begins with a wonderful showcase for the whole band's talents. Modestly epic but blessed with a lethal chorus, it designates the sweet spot where VISIONS OF ATLANTIS feel most potent: big tunes, plenty of bombast and grandeur and occasional hints of something deeper and more atmospheric shimmering away at the fringes.

At their most direct and succinct, VISIONS OF ATLANTIS sound like they are delivering a greatest hits record. "Melancholy Angel", "Clocks" and "Legion Of The Seas" are all immaculate pop-metal gems, with Delauney's elegant power and Guaitoli's soulful rasp intertwined in the most satisfying way imaginable. The muscular bluster of power metal is integral, too: "Master The Hurricane" is a thunderous hymn to survival, full of soaring hooks and virtuoso clatter; "In My World" is an exhilarating mixture of operatic indulgence, folk metal sparkle and pounding, four-to-the-floor Euro-metal crunch.

Anyone hoping for an abundance of swashbuckling and rum-consumption should hold their (sea) horses, as the nautical action is limited to several gently persuasive metaphors, pitching VISIONS OF ATLANTIS as bold but emotional travelers on an endless quest for something bigger, better and more life-affirming. It is a description that suits them, and their music, rather well. This is symphonic metal done properly. Bravo.

Author: Dom Lawson
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