VISION DIVINE from Italy is actually the follow-up to LABYRINTH, because LABYRINTH started to drift away from the Melodic Power Metal from their classic 2nd album 'Return to heaven denied', while VISION DIVINE continued playing this style. Main reason is of course the bandleader, Olaf Thorsen, who actually formed LABYRINTH in the first place. Anyway, the band is about to release their 3rd album 'Stream of consciousness' on METAL BLADE RECORDS and this new VISION DIVINE record is by far their best and almost as good the LABYRINTH album 'Return to heaven denied'. I had a long interview with Olaf, and he cleared up things about his band VISION DIVINE and his former band LABYRINTH...

Please introduce us your band, when did you form VISION DIVINE?
I Formed VD in 1999.Originally it was supposed to be my first solo album, mostly instrumental, but since Fabio Lione joined the band, I decided to change many songs from instrumental to singed ones…then it came natural to consider VD a real band, and not a solo project…I took the name Vision Divine by melting “Vision” (the first name of the band Labyrinth, when I formed it in 1992) with “Divine” (the title I would have given to my first solo album).Since then we released 2 albums and we have been working hard to demonstrate to people that we absolutely wanted to be a real band, and not just a side project,as someone thought at the beginning. So far we have been doing good things, like having a Headliner tour in 2000 in South America.

Please tell us all about your 2 previous CDs...
As I told you our first album, named simply Vision Divine, was originally supposed to be my solo album. We released it in 1999 and it quickly became a “must” here in Italy, selling really great and still being a top seller, here, in Japan and South America. Thanks to this album we’ve been touring a lot for more than one year (as I said we even went to South America).)In 2002 we released the second album, named “Send me an Angel”. This album is slightly different from the 1st one: less “power” in the typical Italian style, and more aggressive and darker. I have to say that in those year I realized that too many Italian bands were playing Power metal with double bass etc…I thought it was time to move and make something more original, once again. Probably in some Country like Germany these first 2 albums are not so easy to be found. Unfortunately this is because of the choice we made those times. In fact nor me nor Fabio wanted to sign for the same labels we already had with Labyrinth or Rhapsody. We thought it would have helped avoiding confusions to people…but unfortunately the label we chosen didn’t make all the best choices, and in some Countries we didn’t find a good distribution. Of course since I left Labyrinth I had nothing anymore to worry about, so I decided to change this situation. Now I’m back to Metal Blade, and things are definitely better.

The line-up of your band completely changed, please inform us... Where did you find your excellent new lead singer, man, he is really awesome...
I agree with you. Michele is really a high talent! He got degrees at the VIT of Los Angeles, and you can clearly hear this by the way he sings, really American, especially in the accent. I know him since some year, but so far we never had the chance to work together. The funny it’s that even this time, after Fabio’s departure, I haven’t thought of him immediately. The fact is that his background is different from ours, and also before this album I knew that despite of the many offers received, he never agreed to join any band,’ cause he never liked completely any of the albums he listened to.Anyway, we had some problem that forced me to get in touch with him, and my hope was at least that he could accept to sing the album. With my big surprise and pleasure I realized that he was adoring the material, and it became immediately clear that he would have been our singer since the first time he opened his mouth eheh…Let me add that if you loved him on studio album you should then see him on stage…he’s really that American attitude that makes him jump and sing like a wild! If you’ll have
the chance, don’t miss our show.

Your new CD is going to be released soon, and I must say it sounds impressive, this is one of the highlights from 2004! Please tell me all about the new album, the songs, the concept, the production, the time it took to record, funny stories etc.
Wow, thanks a lot for your words! We spent a full year working to the songs…song writing started in Dec 2002, and we started the recording in November 2003! We all worked really hard to realize this album, and personally I’ve been recording more than 44 track of guitars, with different riffs to choose during the mix, depending on the choices we would have taken at the end! Sometimes it has even been hard to keep in mind how the final result would or should have been ahah! There are many reasons why it took so much, and mainly it depends on the fact that after my departure from Labyrinth this is my first release, and I really cared a lot to realize the best album ever. For this release I wanted to make something that would have left no doubt about the potential of Vision Divine, especially after all these line up changes it was a real need to us, to show that the changes have been made in better, and not in worse. For this reason I thought that it would have been great to realize something I never did before (and never done in our kind of music, specially from an Italian band): a single song developed along 60 minutes. A kind of “opera”, or better, a suite.

Nowadays many bands in Heavy Metal pretended to realize so-called “operas” but in my opinion at the end what you hear is just a concept album with 10 or more songs, connected together just by the lyrics. I do not pretend to say we realized an opera neither, but for sure we took some melody and we developed it along the 60 minutes, so that there are some nice main passages that you can hear here and there, and around this we built the whole album. Of course, because of this I had to write a concept, and as I did for the first 2 albums of VD, even this time I decided to talk something “spiritual”, not taken from fantasy or sword and sorcery. This is the first concept album I write for VD. The story tells about a man, spending his life wondering why we are in this world…he needs to understand the real meaning of life, he needs to understand WHY we are here and WHAT FOR. This questions become an obsession for him, and they grow so much that he finally takes the extreme decision to commit suicide,’ cause he needs to see the afterlife…he needs answers.

By the way despite of his act he doesn’t die: he falls in coma, and here he meets his Guardian Angel. Here, this Angel tells him that he won’t die, and soon he’ll be sent back to life, but because of his obsession, and because of the unholy act he did, he will have the chance to see what no man has ever seen before dying: he will discover the true meaning of life. And then here it starts his trip with his Angel…along this trip he will see the Truth, he will have all of his questions answered…he will even see the Universe through the eyes of God! After this happened, he’s finally sent back to life…but here, in this “normal” and mortal world, he realizes that what he saw, what he touched, is too big to be told with words, and even to big to be kept in mind… Madness is the final punishment to his sin of arrogance… He will ends his life alone and crazy in a sanatorium, with no other company but his loyal Guardian Angel….

Wow, that's a long story, interesting, musically, which bands influenced you?
I listen to a lot of genres, a lot of bands. It may sound strange now, but when I started with Labyrinth (originally, Vision) we were a real death-thrash metal band! Along the years we moved along different musical styles, and in our first release as Labyrinth (No Limits) we even mixed metal with Techno Music! It’s difficult to tell you my influences, but if I have to name some band, I would say Fates Warning, Malmsteen, Toxik, Mordred, Kreator have been for sure the first bands that really influenced me along the years.

Do you feel there's a lot of competition in Italy between all the bands, because there are quite a lot of bands playing your kind of style? What makes your band different than the rest?
Simply the fact that I’ve been the first in Italy to play this kind of music! The problem is not mine for sure. To make you an example, if now in Germany you should have 10-15 bands playing the same music of Gamma Ray , I don’t think Kai Hansen should be worried about this! Of course I don’t mean I am like Kai, but anyway for sure I’ve been the first playing this kind of music here, and this is a clear fact that even magazines underline every time I release an album. Of course I am not a blinded stupid, and as I was telling you before I realized myself that too many bands are simply “coping” without bringing anything new, and the risk, specially outside from Italy is that some magazine could think now about me that I just “ copy XXX or YYYY” ,but has no sense, and anyway this also a good reason why with VD I started bringing something new to my sound.

Do you also agree with me that your new CD is your strongest effort so far? It even beats the last LABYRINTH record and is almost as good as their 'Return to heaven denied' album, did you ever wanted to return to your former band LABYRINTH?
Well…it’s not something right to say myself, but if you say so I just can thank you a lot. For sure, since I started mixing this album I had the strong feeling that I did something big, much better than other things I did in the past. I had the same good feelings I had when I was mixing Return to Heaven Denied (by they way, don’t say “their “,please… I’ve been writing 70% of that album, music and lyrics) and the reviews so far are confirming that this feeling was right. About Labyrinth honestly I never thought of joining back the band. I left for many strong reasons, and after one year now, I see that I’ve been more than right. Their last album is definitely distant from what I considered to be Labyrinth, and now I could not join them anymore, not even if I’d like.

What can we expect from VISION DIVINE in the future? Touring plans? More CDs?
Everything you said, hopefully! For sure we are planning a full tour in Italy, and I’m having some contact for playing in Japan, and maybe we’ll also go back to South America. About the rest of Europe, we have Metal Blade now, and I think the best now is to let them work as they know, then we’ll see what happens. I am not a young newcomer that pretends to have everything just because I release an album: I know many things depend on how good an album goes (sales, reviews etc…). I strongly wanted to be back to MB, really, ‘cause I believe in them for all the good things they did with Labyrinth in the past, and I’m sure we can repeat those good things with Vision Divine. I just need to continue making good albums and then trust in them. If you do something good I’m sure good times will come.

Thanks for answering the questions, anything to add for yourself?
Just thanks a lot for the good things you said about my album, and I would like to repeat that I know Italy is releasing tons of metal bands now, but we are not a copy…we are the originals ;) I would like to invite people : take a listen to our album, and then let your ears decide by yourself! Stay Heavy!