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Emerging from the grave of the criminally underrated and underexposed EMPYRIUM, band mainman Schwadorf brings forth the second album from Germany’s THE VISION BLEAK. Carpathia tells the fateful story of a businessman who inherits the old estates of his family in the far and strange aforementioned land. The album starts out with a dramatic march into the mysterious darkness, complete with operatic female vocals, horns, and strings. The next two tracks rip into hooky, downtuned ENTOMBED brutality albeit led by vocalist Konstanz’s gothically dramatic vocals and heavy use of keyboards. “Dreams in the Witch House” slows down the tempo and builds on the tension within the story with more spacing in the song arrangements and some impressive interplay between the instruments. THE VISION BLEAK employ a heavy use of synths and female vocals just as CRADLE OF FILTH does. However, THE VISION BLEAK do not get tangled up in excess and know when to cut the fat off. The following track journeys into European doom a la prime PARADISE LOST and the song really takes off when the female vocals reminiscent of classic THEATRE OF TRAGEDY/CRADLE OF FILTH come in. The nine-plus minute, “The Charm is Done,” concludes the story with all of the elements that made up the rest of the album. At Carpathia’s conclusion you’re left feeling as if things were not resolved in one form or another. A few more songs might have dealt with that issue. It’s a nice blast from the past to hear a band in 2005 use some of the elements that made European gothic/dark/doom metal in the mid-90’s so exciting. All in all, THE VISION BLEAK have produced a good album that offers something different and interesting to today’s metal scene. (Prophecy Productions)