VNV Nation - Empires
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VNV Nation
Empires

I'm feeling it folks. A resurgence in my interest in the industrial genre, and it's all because of a sort of new breed. While they may not be singing about shinier and happier things, their music is a little more agreeable and instead of chunking me over the head with guitar riffs ad infinitum, they have a great idea of melody and even sing their songs instead of growling. They're not complete weenies, though, and they still know how to kick a harsh beat, which is why I find myself really grooving along with this "electro body music."

I've said some of these same things back in my review of VNV Nations release Praise The Fallen, but in the course of one disc they've come a long way yet again and refined their own style for an even more solid listen. While it's a fair amount less abrasive than their last disc and the vocals also have less distortion on them, it's also a much catchier disc and more immediate.

As I said before, this album is a little less harsh than their last release, but it's also a lot more cohesive. It has moments where it resembles Front 242, and moments where it sounds like an updated version of Nitzer Ebb or a hard-edged Depeche Mode. I like to think of it as "synthcore." On the well-rounded side of things, the album both starts out and ends with the same theme in "Firstlight" (an instrumental of pulsing electronic blips) and "Arclight" (those same pulses over some synth strings and lyrics). The album starts out in earnest on the track "Kingdom" and it's again apparent that the group has kept some of the same themes lyrically, although overall it's a bit more uplifting. Musically, the track is sort of a mid-tempo number that builds steadily to pound pretty well behind a two-part chorus.

On the first five tracks of the disc, the group actually cranks up things ever so slightly on each track. "Rubicon" takes off even a little more than "Kingdom," while "Savior" is the first real dancefloor pounder on the album (and an instrumental) that sounds like Paul Van Dyk with lots of extra crunch. The real barnburner (and hardest track on the release), though, is the fifth track entitled "Fragments" that absolutely cranks with a monster of a thick, throbbing beat and dark synth sounds while the vocals are coated in an extra layer of feedback as well. The group follows it up with the ballad-like "Distant (Rubicon II)" in which vocals by Ronan Harris (which are pretty good even when not surrounded by pounding beats) are simply accompanied by some synth strings.

The rest of the album runs sort of a middle group in terms of BPM and sound, although "Darkangel" manages to mix menace with beauty quite well (and is perhaps one of the best tracks that the group has ever done). It starts out simple, but slowly builds into a thumping dancefloor track with all kinds of thick synths before winding down again to where it started and the final pulses of the aforementioned "Arclight." If you're looking something that's more harsh, this album may dissapoint, but overall it's a better release from the group and shows that just because a group falls into an "industrial" category, it doesn't mean that they have to slam you into the ground with every track.

rating: 7.510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00