By Jonathan Smith
Like a ghost ship emerging from a heavy fog, Germany’s gothic duo have returned with an album that, despite some occasional flat attempts towards invoking a playfully dark atmosphere, is a fun record well worth a listen. One of its most enduring qualities is its largely successful resistance to falling into thematic or musical stereotypes. While opener “A Curse of the Grandest Kind” is barely more than a lengthy spoken-word piece that only serves to build toward the crashing riffs of “Descend Into Maelstrom,” the latter song gets the album moving in the right direction. Stylistically Set Sail To Mystery is melodic gothic metal, and despite the majority of the vocals being cleanly sung, it’s often more in the vein of melodic death metal than power metal. A minimalist use of synths adds nice little touches to many songs (particularly “The Foul Within”), and the occasional restrained guitar solo contributes another layer to the album’s sound. “Mother Nothingness (The Triumph of Ubbo Sathla)” gives off a doomier vibe than the rest of the album, and comes off sounding something like the black sheep out of the tracks. “The Outsider” is a galloping piece that is the album’s strongest cut, its mood invoking less a ship on the sea than a car speeding down a highway. “A Romance With the Grave” is perhaps the weakest track both in terms of music and style, a moment in which the gothic mood gives way to a cheesiness that cannot easily be ignored. However, for those who like deliberate attempts at gothic metal that seem just self-consciousness enough to be aware of its own occasional silliness, The Vision Bleak have produced an entertaining album that is lighter fare for the lighter season.