As cool as it is to be able to access almost any song I could possibly desire instantaneously, by and large, I mourn the loss of the olden days of music consumption. After swallowing the red pill of metal, I spent the next decade browsing the used CD bins of any record store I could find, at any chance I could get. I still remember the thrill of finding The Number of the Beast, Holy Diver, Defenders of the Faith, Hall of the Mountain King, and countless other precious artifacts from metal days of yore, and I still remember how I’d walk to the car, nearly shaking from the anticipation of ripping off the plastic and inserting the disc for the first time. I’d spend the next several weeks listening to my new gem over and over, learning it in and out, front and back — a practice that seems all too rare in this new age of limitless options and short attention spans. In some ways, it seems like the magic is gone. Sad face.
And then a record comes along that takes me right back to that storied past and refills my magic bar to 100%. Mistress of the Gods, the debut album from Germany’s Vision of Choice is one of those records. After close to thirty spins of this 57-minute monster, I’m still trying to come up with the best way to describe what it sounds like. Here’s the best I got: take the masculine riffs and baritone bellows of a band like Omen, mix it with some German speed a la Helloween or Blind Guardian, add some eccentric Savatage flair, and round it out with Mötley Crüe and Van Halen, and you might get close. Mistress of the Gods is the vision (of choice) of multi-instrumentalist (read: virtuoso) Steve Brockmann, a journeyman musician who’s spent decades in the German music scene and has released several solo albums including a rock opera in 2012. He’s teamed up with vocalist Lukas Remus to form Vision of Choice, and the results are pretty spectacular.1
With its burly chords and vocals and its searing leads, excellent opener “New Horizon” may lead listeners to believe that the whole album is full of standard power metal anthems, and this is certainly not the case. I’ve chosen to include “Shine” as the embedded single since it shows a more complete cross-section of what Vision of Choice‘s sound can offer. A tasty overdriven guitar intro sets the stage for a hair metal stomp, complete with an infectious chorus, and the whole track displays Brockmann’s insane songwriting and technical ability. “Hold Your Head High” somehow (in a good way) sounds like a Blind Guardian/Alice in Chains mashup, “Into the Light” would fit comfortably on any classic Savatage album, and “Givin’ It Up” is a hard rock shred fest that would put a smile on Joe Satriani’s face. The amount of diversity among the album’s eleven tracks is impressive, and is certainly key to Mistress‘s success — it flows smoothly and quickly despite the long length.
Touted as a loose concept album about an archeologist’s son who found something he shouldn’t have, the promo included the lyrics. I followed along on one of my listens and to be honest, I didn’t get a lot out of it. But don’t worry, the music is what you’re here for, and it certainly delivers. Unique, impassioned songs piped through an excellent classic production make Mistress of the Gods a pleasure to listen to. The guitar tone literally makes me drool at times, the chords ringing out for days (“Hold On”) and the solos soaring to infinity and beyond (“Touch the Sky”). Stockmann’s bass is Steve Harris-like in its speed and in the integral role it plays in the songs, and Remus’ powerful, gravelly voice is the cherry on top of this cake of greatness. The band’s influences are so well integrated into an overall sound that it’s honestly hard to pick standouts. If you like classic metal, you’ll like every track, but check out “Shine,” Come Tomorrow,” “Into the Light,” and “Mistress of the Gods.”
Mistress of the Gods makes me feel like an archeologist’s son who, upon finding an ancient relic, has been transported back to a time when the guitar solo was king and the line between metal and rock was fuzzy or even non-existent. From the vintage artwork to the vintage sound, the debut from Vision of Choice makes me feel as if I’ve just pulled an obscure classic from the record store shelf, and I’m quite sure that it will continue to speak its secrets to me throughout 2020.