VNV Nation: Empires

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By Theo Rhodes

VNV Nation is one of a number of bands (such as Covenant, Wumpscut, and Neuroactive) aggressively carving a niche for themselves in the spaces between industrial and electronic music. Representing a move away from the harsher guitar driven industrial, VNV Nation combines electronic beats with symphonic elements, industrial noises, and profoundly thematic lyrics. The result is music you can dance to in clubs, relax to at home, and quote lyrics from to make your friends think you're clever.

They took the growing scene by storm with their phenomenal second release, Praise the Fallen, and live shows have only enhanced their reputation as the band to watch. Empires’ release was viewed the usual trepidation that precedes the next release after an amazing album: would it measure up? Could they meet the high standards set by their previous album?

The answer is a resounding yes. Empires is every bit as original, incredible, and exceptional as previous efforts. Musically, it retains that beautiful synthesis of symphony and speed. The songs are diverse, from the grating clashes and noises of “Fragments,” to the steady, solemn procession of “Rubicon,” to the instrumental single, “Saviour.” Despite its diversity, the album retains a thematic coherency throughout. Lyrically, it contains apocalyptic vision and desperately hopeful ultimata. The ideas of Victory Not Vengeance (VNV…it all becomes clear now) are explored throughout, most explicitly in “Kingdom.” To say the lyrics are incredibly poetic is an understatement. As one fan recently put it: “making Ronan Harris the poet laureate of England would not, in my opinion, be overdoing it.” While that may be a tad overzealous, the sentiment is not unjustified.

The album is excellently produced, the liner notes are aesthetic and contain all the necessary information and lyrics. I have no complaints about any aspects of it. If you enjoy industrial music in any of its plethora of forms, drop whatever you’re doing, and go buy Empires. Even those of a more electronic bent will find this album worth looking into. VNV Nation also provides an excellent introduction to the industrial genre for those who are curious. One caveat, however: in spite of their symphonic leanings, VNV Nation’s music is dance music. If you don’t like music with a pulsating beat, you’ll want to pass this up, even though you’ll miss out on those tracks that don’t have one. Downloadable samples, lyrics, and tour info can be found at http://www.nation.demon.co.uk.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/vnvnation-empires/