"Witching Hour"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Praise the Witch! Mother, Maiden, Crone...whatever form she takes, she's been with us almost since the beginning. Who better to pay tribute to her than The Vision Bleak?

I'll make no secret of it, I love these guys. I think they utterly dominate the genre of Gothic horror metal, a category often rife with silliness and sappiness. Their last effort "Set Sail To Mystery" was absolutely tremendous and while I'm not quite prepared to say "Witching Hour" surpasses it, it certainly is nothing that pales in comparison, which was a fear I had. In fact, this is the heaviest and most crushing outing by A Vision Bleak yet, but they still retain that gothic mystery and beauty that has typified them in the past. It is that sense of ageless eeriness that makes this band what it is. And that, also, is present in spades on "Witching Hour".

As you might guess, the album deals with mythical female menaces across time and distance. After ominous intro "Witching Hour", "A Witch Is Born" shocks with flat out thrash riffing which shows the boys are out for blood this time around. The lonesome sound of the flute initiates "The Blockburg Rite", but when the guitar kicks in, it is in the mold of ancient Celtic Frost. In the last third, the mid-tempo crunch picks up pace brutally, which is a pure neck-snapping moment. But throughout that track, the flute remains and adds that note of haunting melody. "Cannibal Witch" tells the story of Russian hag Baba Yaga, who uses her mortar and pestle to grind human bones to paste. The song itself follows suit, with Konstantine's deep vocals chanting along. Again there is a burst of speed at the end, this time accompanied by the twang of a mouth harp. These little touches add depth to the music.

Each track has its own flavor and personality. "Wood Hag" is Hansel and Gretel given metal form, with harpsichord accompaniment. "Hexenmeister" is brutal and riffy, "Pesta Approaches" is the most "Gothic" of all the tracks here with a more subdued feel. "Call of the Banshee" returns to hammering metal and the spooky sound of the theremin is heard. The album ends strongly with the near death metal epic "The Valkyrie"...never has the band's guitar sound been so totally crushing and never have the vocal melodies been so soaring and uplifting. This is a pagan metal epic worthy of the best around.

Well, I guess you've figured out by now that "Witching Hour" is another classic from The Vision Bleak. This is about as good as it gets when it comes to Gothic metal.