Do the D.A.V.N.V.
Passive observers may not notice it, but music’s black-garbed masses might sense something’s woefully amiss: VNV Nation’s latest album Judgement finds darkwave being led into the light. On their sixth turn handling keyboards and production duties, UK expatriates Ronan Harris and Mark Jackson often sound positivelyâ€šÃ„Ã®well, positive, way beyond the anthemics on personal responsibility occasionally found in the music of the night. It’s hella different; it’s potentially divisive.It’s also not for lack of trying. In the spectacular “Momentum” they let synth riffs do the talking, swirling around Harris’ life-cycle poetic. Tracks like “Descent” and “Nemesis” respectively brood and pound, and they also live up to industrial music’s old lyrical hype. The devil on earth, unfair politics and the whiplash sarcasm of “Judgement day’s not coming / Soon enough”â€šÃ„Ã®all are hallmarks of effortlessly entertaining aggression.
All that, and this album can still feel downright uplifting. It uses everything from mere hints (“In us also lies the capacity to transcend,” last line of the morose “Descent”) to complete statements on ideals like humility and unity (“The Farthest Star”) to stitch together some hope. There’s even full-blown balladry in “Illusion,” with an arrangement unconsciously nicking chord progressions from The Wallflowers’ “One Headlight.”
Then there are sweeping, nearly overblown numbers like “Prelude” and “As It Fades” that recall electronica royalty: Tiesto, Moby, BT. And while his voice is not comparable to Thom Yorke’s or Mike Patton’s, Harris’ steady melodic delivery is another distinctive, dangerous element of today’s VNV Nation. Judgement may represent a sea change in industrial music. It could break through VNV’s serious shell to a gooey synth-pop center, or refresh ears numbed by decades of distorted rebel yells.