Soundchecks Music Reviews

Plato And Power Metal
NICOLE BOGNER

interviewed by Octavio Ramos Jr

In 355 BC, the Greek philosopher Plato set out to write three books. The first would address the nature of man, the second the creation of the world, and the third the story of Atlantis. Plato managed to complete only the first book.

Plato's preferred method of expressing his ideas was through the use of dialogues. The most famous of these dialogues were between Socrates, Plato's teacher, and other philosophers. Plato had planned to use this method to chronicle the history of Atlantis, using characters such as Kritias and Solon.

Interestingly, members of the Austrian band Visions Of Atlantis share a certain kinship with Plato. When vocalist Nicole Bogner described how the band feels about the lost continent, it was as if she was tapping into territory very much beloved by the Greek thinker.

NB: We think the people from Atlantis lived nearly in the same way that we do. The myths of Atlantis are surrounded by many different emotions, like love, hate, anger, and hope. And the connection between these emotions and Atlantis creates a veil of mystery, making the link very interesting.

Founded in August 2000, Visions Of Atlantis recorded a three-song demo several months later and then went on to make its live debut with the band Edenbridge. Much like bands such as Rhapsody, Kamelot and Stratovarius, Visions Of Atlantis plays a dynamic and captivating version of power metal that some call epic metal because of its emphasis on myth and fantasy.

NB: Our songs have two stories. This is very important to us. While our interpretation exists, the listener can also connect his or her personal feeling and emotions to the songs, so we can tell, metaphorically, a piece of [the listener's personal] life. To achieve this, we selected a mythic band-name, because fantasy and myth drive our music.

Visions Of Atlantis made its full-length debut in 2002 with the release Eternal Endless Infinity. To support the release, the band went on tour with the likes of Katatonia, Finntroll, and Nightwish. As it turned out, Nightwish had a big influence on the band's debut.

NB: Young bands need a kind of model or source of inspiration, so that they in turn can find and develop their own specific styles. On the first CD, you can hear key influences on us, such as Nightwish, Rhapsody, Stratovarius, and Sonata Arctica. But we also had other influences [which range from] classical music, musicals, and operas.

The band's latest release, titled Cast Away, is another story. Although the power-metal style dominates, the band has begun to nurture its own distinct sound, one which taps into diverse elements, from the groovy, dancy anthems found in dark-wave to facets of the New Wave of British heavy metal.

NB: On the new album, you will recognise more clearly the characteristic style we developed. You can hear that we are no clone of existing bands with a similar style. Moreover, we and our music are more 'grown up'. We also took advantage of an outstanding producer who shared his ideas on how to make our songs sound really great!

According to Nicole, the band's evolution was to link the melancholy with the joyful.

NB: In Cast Away, we brought together our 'wild' side with our softer, melancholic side. It is very emotional, and we worked out of our [comfort zone]. Not that we think Eternal Endless Infinity was so bad - no, it was very good for its time. I am just saying that we have developed much more since.

Nature, romance, and adventure are common themes on Cast Away. Nicole notes that the band is very democratic when it comes to writing the songs, but that there are key players during the development process.

NB: Our keyboarder [Miro Holly] and guitar player [Werner Fiedler] sit down and compose the music for a song. Then we all participate in further developing the ideas. The lyrics are written by Miro and [vocalist] Mario Plank. I think that when you begin to write or hear a song that a picture forms before your eyes. The band member who identifies him or herself with a song the most usually writes the lyrics.

Visions Of Atlantis has been on the road with Epica and soon plans to be on tour with label-mate Elis. I asked Nicole how she liked touring.

NB: Oh, great! We have experienced much success with our concerts in each country. The only problem was the bad virus we had on board [the tour bus] and everyone got sick. For me and Simone [Simons, Epica's vocalist] it was very hard to keep our voices intact. But we still had lots of fun!

As with the American music charts, power metal in Austria thrives mostly underground.

NB: In the charts there is not much metal music. The people are very interested in commercial music, and they play it up and down on the radio. But we do have a growing metal scene, with bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation and Evanescence on the charts. I think the people want to hear more of this type of music.

With Cast Away released, the band is focusing on tours. The band plans to perform in South American and Mexico, as well as play at a few 'open airs' and other festivals. Nicole thinks the next Visions Of Atlantis CD will be released in the middle of 2006.

NB: I hope to see the fans soon at a live gig [so we can] celebrate and party! Nice greets and lots of kisses!


Edited by Tony Lee
for PIGASUS Press