I completely lost track of VISION DIVINE after the release of the good, but not great, “The Perfect Machine”. I generally enjoyed that album, but not enough to pay any mind to the follow-up, “The 25th Hour”. I’ve read some reviews of that album, and they are all positive, so I assume that VISION DIVINE have continued to do more right than wrong. So, when the band’s newest output, the long and strangely titled “9 Degrees West Of The Moon”, landed in my review pile, I was at least mildly curious as to what the band had to offer this go-round, especially with the return of Fabio Lione (RHAPSODY OF FIRE) to the microphone.
I’ll tell you what VISION DIVINE have to offer on “9 Degrees West Of The Moon” – some damn fine Progressive Power Metal, that’s what. Now present biases must be fully disclosed before I go any further: I’m in the middle of a huge Progressive Metal kick as of the time this review is being written, so I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m showing some favoritism towards bands of this ilk right now. With that known, I have to believe that this album would impress me no matter what sub-genre was currently tickling my fancy (or cranking my yank, depending upon your level of decency). VISION DIVINE have crafted a moody (in a good way), memorable album of highs and lows that spans just about all areas of Progressive and Power Metal. The dynamics on “9 Degrees West Of The Moon” are expertly crafted, never leaving the listener in one emotional shade for too long. Speedy numbers lead into brooding ones, soft leads in loud and uplifting into melancholy. In other words, the album offers exactly what this genre demands: Metal that makes you think a little bit, rather than mindlessly headbang and shred on your air guitar (not that there’s anything at all wrong with that mind you). To top this all off, VISION DIVINE doesn’t shy away from experimentation either, which is never more evident then on the near Thrash verses of “The Killing Speed Of Time”.
As for the previously mentioned Fabio Lione, let’s just say he delivers on all fronts. His voice seems less accented then his work with RHAPSODY OF FIRE, and even a bit rougher. I may be wrong, but I get the feeling I’m hearing more of Lione’s true voice on “9 Degrees West Of The Moon”, rather than overly produced version I’ve grown accustomed to. Regardless of what it is, it’s a good fit for VISION DIVINE.
As I said above, I don’t know how VISION DIVINE sounded on their previous album, but I can say that “9 Degrees West Of The Moon” is a superior release than “The Perfect Machine”. The band has crafted an album more akin to what I consider their masterpiece, “Stream Of Consciousness”, and that dear reader is a very good thing.
(And as a side note, I must mention the two “extra tracks”: The cover of JUDAS PRIEST’s “A Touch Of Evil” is just plain fun with Lione doing a nearly spot-on Rob Halford impersonation. Although I question the reason for doing a cover when all you plan to do is play the original note for note. And the demo for “Fading Shadow” is more or less an under produced copy of the final version, so it’s also not really necessary.)
(Online March 15, 2009)