VNV Nation – Empires (1999 album)

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Introduction: I’ve spent a significant amount of time as of late introducing new artists as of late, from the ever edgy Celldweller, to the oppositely optimistic Scatman John to the simpler cinematics of Varien. I mean, yes there was a review thrown in there as well, but I review and THYX so often that it’s hardly worth noting my return. However, when it comes to VNV Nation, this is only my second review, the first of which was overly reliant on using samples from old war movies and seemingly glorifying war, which I have some mixed feelings on. This album takes the whole idea of VNV Nation and twists it into an entirely different direction. Still focused on Victory Not Vengence, this album takes an internal looks on the struggles of trying to find order in such a chaotic world, which is definitely an idea I like exploring.


So I guess I’ll go ahead and explore it.




VNV Nation – Firstlight (5.25): Firstlight is a fairly average introduction song with very little to talk about. There’s really only a couple things to this song. First off, we have the trippy glitched out synth that sounds like a drum that’s been pitched up way too high for its own good. And secondly, we have a couple of layers of strengths providing some nice smooth ambience to this song, setting the mood for the rest of the album. And while the strings are always welcome (even if they’re a bit too simplistic), I’m not all that thrilled about those pitched up drums. They just don’t seem all that special or interesting to listen to. Not horrible. But not any good either.


Perhaps if this song took some time to develop more and added in some lyrics, I’d enjoy it a lot more.


Yeah, that’d be neat.


VNV Nation – Kingdom (6.75): Within the first few seconds, this song sounds quite similar to a lot of the war songs from the first album I reviewed of VNV Nation. A slight bit of strings followed by some samples of metal clashing as if some gate is being unlocked. But that’s all there is sampled. No communications or interrogations depicting the glorious horror that is war. Just a simple clashing accompanying some strings. And outside of a harsh snare here and there, this intro has no effect on the rest of the song, which is a bit more vocal than previous VNV Nation. Good. As VNV Nation progresses, the music only becomes more and more vocal and I enjoy it more and more each time as the message continually begins to match the mantra that Victory not Vengeance.


However, we’re not there quite yet, this simply synthed song still has a bit of an extra edge to it. Much of the song is spent depicting a world of chaos in which all values and ideals worth standing for are constantly thrown down and cast to the side, resigning those who live in this world to nihilism and hopeless ness. Repeatedly the song questions whether anyone can be saved from this chaos


But those are the verses. The chorus is a bit more hopeful, concentrating more on the dream of making a heaven within this world. A place where we can escape the chaos and find peace together. Think of this album as a compromise between the last few albums I’ve reviewed. It’s got a bit of the pessimism and edge that spread throughout Celldweller’s album. It does hint a little bit at a dream of a utopia which served as a main them in Scatman’s debut album. And like my recent chapter of, there is hope of changing from the one negative view of the world to the more positive world from Scatman’s dreams


Overall, this compromise results in a bit of a more realistic worldview, one that still focuses more on victory as we must strive to take this kingdom for ourselves. We can rise above the chaos even when all seems impossible. Even when all seems lost…


VNV Nation – Rubicon (7): Now, most of the songs on this album don’t exactly stand out musically, so I’ll probably be spending a bit more time on the lyrical analysis rather than the music for most of the songs, but I do want to point out this song’s music for a brief second. This song’s melodies have such a good upbeat vibe that stands out a bit more than most of the other songs on the album. Yes, it still follows a lot of the VNV Nation tropes for the majority of the song: very little development, plenty of heavy emphasis on the drums, especially in some portions, but I feel the melody is a significant enough of a part of my enjoyment of this song that I felt it was worth mentioning.


However, the true focus for this and a good two thirds of the other songs on this album is the lyrical content. Rubicon, much like the famous Revolutionary War river of American History, is about crossing a point in one’s life that cannot be uncrossed, leaving behind a past that cannot be returned to, awakening to a world that cannot be unseen. It’s a half-song about despair, once again taking on the darker flipside of VNV Nation’s namesake, vengeance. There’s a resignation to the helpless wandering as the darkness seems quite impossible to escape, tearing the singer apart as he longs for an end to the suffering that has taken over his life. This song, does have a small bit of hope, begging for a light to be shown so that he can escape the darkness, but for now, he resigns to the fact that his end is approaching.


VNV Nation – Saviour (6): Well… Saviour doesn’t really have the twinges of pessimism that was hinted in the last couple of songs. It doesn’t have the optimism either. It’s an instrumental track again. However, I feel like, this one is significantly better than the intro. No overly harsh drums, no pitched-up drums, just a standard solid 4 on 4 drumbeat. Well, there’s some other instruments in there too, a simple melody, some occasional strings and an arpeggiated bassline that really serves as the main star of the show in my book, but unfortunately, there isn’t all that much variety to enjoy with these instruments. The song definitely has some good potential, but I never feel lit truly embraces it.


VNV Nation – Fragments (6.25): On the surface level, Fragments is the harshest song on the album. The drumbeat and the swelling bassline together to drown out all that is calm in this track, creating a loud blaring and violent drive synonymous with many of the war inspired songs from the last album. The snare is especially prominent and distorted scratching away at anything smooth that this song has to offer. It’s a bit of a shame as I quite enjoy some of the less harsh elements of this track. The arps have a decent range to them, sometimes a bit heavier than the average arp, but it’s still silky smooth in comparison to the lesser drumbeat and bassline. However, because of the harshness from the overwhelming bassline and snare, I end up being a bit disappointed by the music this song has to offer. There’s a small light influence from a choir that appears sparsely in the song, but it’s too minimal to truly change my opinion.


Yet, while the music is incredibly harsh, the message displayed by the song is surprisingly uplifting. Despite its rough exterior, this song houses a theme of a bright future. All great things that we fight for in the present will echo on forever into the future. And so, the great ideals of humanity will never truly die, even if they seem to be choked out by various societal flaws.


I’m just not sure why this song has to be so forceful about it.


VNV Nation – Distant (Rubicon II) (8.75): And now, for something much calmer and much more soothing in tone. Distant, the sequel to Rubicon (subtly hinted at with Rubicon II in parentheses), is almost entirely made of strings, with only Ronan’s voice breaking through. Like its predecessor, Distant focuses on life after the point of no return. The despair from the first of these two songs has bled over to its sequel. But this time, the slow somber strings bring in a strange sense of peace to the despair. Where the first Rubicon focused a heavy lot on struggling to find a way back to the past, Distant takes a breath and searches internally to the deepest depths of one who’s crossed the Rubicon. The broken soul that remains adrift in the vast sea of reality.


When you cross the Rubicon, you may not cross back. Distant focuses on that realization as the singer watches all that he has known fade away. And as he lets this new distant fate settle in, darker emotions arise from within. Vengeance is one of them. A deep sense of loneliness and rage take hold as one submits to the chaos. They become a near inescapable prison that tricks you into thinking that any sign of redemption or hope must be an illusion. It is a tragically toxic state of mind to find one’s self in. One that I find myself in from time to time, much as I try to deny it.


While I do typically enjoy VNV Nation for the more inspiring type of song. This one hits quite close to home, well illustrating the deepest darkest moments of loneliness, all with a beautiful somber tone.


VNV nation – Standing (8): Standing serves to be the most memorable song on this album, though that may be because, thanks to another album I’ll review later, there are two other versions of this song. Due to this, I’ve heard this set of lyrics thrice as many as most other VNV Nation songs while shuffling my all too large music library (Though Solitary from the last VNV Nation album I reviewed still has it beat with four different versions). The original Standing serves as an intermediate between the utterly calming Still mix and the harsher Motion mix that’s more akin to what you’d find off of Praise the Fallen. It has both a solid drive with more energy than Still, but also retains the sweeping chords that bring out the true beauty of the song.


But for now, it doesn’t matter what other versions of this song exist. All that matters is this version, which serves as one of my favorite songs off of Empires.


Like the two Rubicon songs in this album, Standing is about the awakening of a soul and gaining a brand-new perspective of the world. However, unlike the Rubicons, Standing’s stance on this life-changing moment is infinitely more positive. Rubicon and Distant, repeatedly mourned over the inability to retread their steps back towards the peace once known. Standing, however, cuts off the past and looks to the future. Instead of drowning in the sea of chaos, we now stand still in the waters, allowing a fuller view of the world around us.


This moment of clarity, when we take a breath and try and observe the world without drowning in it, is the focus of the song. The past doesn’t matter anymore, and for a brief while, the future is also irrelevant. You and the universe as it is this very moment are all that matters. It’s a vast world filled with unfamiliarity and confusion. It’s a world where, at times, victory seems implausible, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth fighting for. And as complicated and overwhelming as the world may become, it’s important to keep in mind what truly matters.


All that matters right now is that moment of peace.


VNV nation – Legion (8): But I can’t promise that peace will last. In fact, there’s an almost certainty that this moment of peace and clarity that we try to hold onto so dearly will slip from our fingers time and time again.


Legion, like Standing, has three different versions and so it has also appeared in the general VNV Nation shuffle more often than other songs (though Standing and its alternate versions did stand out a bit more to me by simply being a better song). This original version, once again, takes a medium route between the ever so calming Anachron version and the slightly more intense Janus Version. Though this time around, it’s leaning a bit more towards upbeat Janus. It’s just a slight bit harsher with its drumbeat and extra focus on the basslines, though it doesn’t come anywhere near the harsher songs seen in the first half of the album. The background choir is a nice touch that keeps the song well grounded in the calmer half of the album.


Lyrically, Legion sounds to be a continuation of Standing, though this one is less about breaking free from the turmoil of the far side of the Rubicon and more about the fear of returning to the chaos. After experiencing the clarity of Standing and desperately trying to hold onto that feeling, it only becomes more painful when the peace begins to fade away. And so, Legion is about desperately trying to cling onto that feeling. It’s about the fear of the unknown as you close your eyes and drift away from that point of clarity.


VNV Nation – Darkangel (6.5): There’s a calm sense of darkness to Darkangel (Darkangel is dark, who could have guessed?). It does have a slightly tumultuous drive compared to the rest of the latter half of Empires, which makes it stick out a bit sorely in comparison to the resto the stellar half of this album. Admittedly the darker drive in the song doesn’t match the first half of the album either but there still is a slightly more violent feeling here. Perhaps it has to do with the lyrical content. Thematically, there is some continuation of the fall alluded to in Legion, but this song has very little in common with Arclight, the next song on the album, making it a confusing penultimate song. But I’m getting ahead of myself.


What are these lyrics that take the turmoil of Legion and delve deeper into the struggle between peace and chaos? Well it’s apparent from the beginning, that peace is gone. There is no more peace in this moment and trying to hold onto it any longer will only result in suffering. Now, for the most part, this does work as a good message. True peace, in my experience, is never permanent. Sometimes, you have to move forward into the chaotic unknown in order to reach towards that peaceful future.


But this song doesn’t quite depict the best way to go about it. There’s no positive active drive to replace the sorrow. It’s just passive drifting through life, once again resigning to the chaos. There’s such a focus on scorn and a desire for war really implies that this song is leaning to a more vengeful solution. And the never-ending darkened skies envisioned in the future is a bit too nihilistic for my current tastes. There’s simply no hope to be found in this song.


Then again, perhaps this song is merely setting up a redemptive finale.


VNV Nation – Arclight (8.25): Arclight concludes this album with a callback to the beginning, the instrumental introduction that I didn’t quite care for very much with those pitch-crazy drums. And while instrumentally, the first half of this song is exactly the same. Thankfully, it does pick up after that midway point with a new solid drumbeat (with no unpleasant pitch shifts) and an arp.


And there are also lyrics.


This album has been a mixture of darkness and light, with the last song threatening to return to the deep depths of chaos and uncertainty. Arclight however brings us back to a hopeful state of mind. While certainty is almost certainly destined to elude us throughout our time on this Earth, there is still peace in the future if we strive for it. Leave behind all that chains you down in hopeless sorrow and embrace the future. And while you can’t be certain of everything in this world, you should at least be certain of yourself.


Peace is out there. And with it, contentment.


Conclusion: Empires is a massive improvement over the last VNV Nation album. It’s first half is a bit pessimistic, but the rest of the album more than makes up for it by once again finding peace in the chaos for a brief moment and looking towards the future, dedicating one’s life to rediscovering that peace. The instrumental songs do flop slightly and I could really do without Saviours especially, though I find that Firstlight is somewhat necessary to allow Arclight to have its full impact (even though I consider Firstlight to be the lesser of the two instrumentals).


Final Score: (7/10)

Daily Hat Track Roundup: April 2019

Alright, it’s been May for precisely a week, and I still haven’t posed a summary of all the Daily Hat Tracks for April. If you’re following me on Twitter, then this post will be kind of useless to you as I’ve already posed all of these songs and their descriptions on Twitter. I aim to do so daily, but every once and a while, I slack off and later post an obscenely large amount of them in one day. Anyways, here’s thirty songs I enjoyed listening to over the past month so perhaps you can enjoy them as well. Check out the playlist at the bottom to hear all of the Daily Hat Tracks of the year.


Daily Hat Track: April 1 (Combichrist – The Evil in Me): This is basically the edgiest I can go before the edge starts to be a detractor rather than a positive aspect. Has that nihilistic mood for the darker times, though it doesn’t cross any lines.


Daily Hat Track: April 2 (Bliss – Warriors): I’ve already shared the Guitar remix a month or so back. I was originally introduced to that one and find it a bit more addicting. This one has some cool parts too, but it’s not nearly as good as constant guitar solos.


Daily Hat Track: April 3 (Bring Me the Horizon & Grimes – nihilist blues): I’ve been listening to a lot of edgier music as of late. Should probably work on rebalancing my musical diet, but eh this dark vibe is where I’m at right now. There’s a nihilist knocking on my door… And he shares my face…


Daily Hat Track: April 4 (Shirobon – Born Survivor): Definitely a nostalgic inspirational tune from a few years back when things were a lot simpler (though still kinda complicated). Good chiptune mood in this one. Has a nice bounce to it.


Daily Hat Track: April 5 (H.U.V.A. Network – Something Heavens): It’s incredibly late and so I desire to end the day with some relaxation from the immersive heavenly experience that is H.U.V.A. Network. Good night to all. May your dreams be of something heavenly.


Daily Hat Track: April 6 (Seven Lions & Jason Ross – The Sirens: Oh yeah, I forgot about this psytrance/psystep wonder Seven Lions released last year. Looks like there’s a compilation with an extended version out now. Neat.


Daily Hat Track: April 7 (Douglas Holmquist & Susanna Lundgren – Something Beneath): The fact that this beautiful inspiring track comes from a Pinball game still astounds me. Then again, Pinout is a very interesting spin on Pinball, so it deserves it.


Daily Hat Track: April 8 (Nömak – Schrödinger’s Cat WLP Edit): Here’s a very strange trippy experimental track that breaks apart halfway through to return as something completely different. Such an odd song. I love it.


Daily Hat Track: April 9 (Lauren Bousfield – Two Swans Duct Taped to the Side of the Coke Machine): Long as we’re doing experimental madness, here’s a shorter fascinatingly enjoyable mess from Lauren Bousefield. The song title isn’t shorter though. Not short at all.


Daily Hat Track: April 10 (Varien – Born of Blood, Risen from Ash): This one’s only about a week old but the combination of 2012-2024 Varien and 2026 – 2018 Varien really works here. Really looking forward to everything else Varien has coming for us over the next year.


Daily Hat Track: April 11 (Freezepop – Phantoms): I have no idea what this song is about. Well I know it’s about a post mortem dance party but other than that I’m at a loss. Fun song though!


Daily Hat Track: April 12 (Stephen & IN-Q – Start a Fire): Not my usual genre to post but Stephen does occasionally dip very slightly into electronic with a synth here and there. This mostly acoustic intro to his album is among my favorites from him.


Daily Hat Track: April 13 (Joachim Pastor – Reykjavik): Been a while since I posted some Hungry Music. Joachim Pastor with a chill drive as always. Good funky grooves. Beautifully mysterious melodies. Odd outro for a hungry song but I don’t really mind.


Daily Hat Track: April 14 (Arkasia – Those From There): Not an Arkasia expert, so I can’t necessarily compare this to songs from the rest of his discography, but this one certainly is magically immersive. Love the subtle vocal flavors added here and there.


Daily Hat Track: April 15 (Andy Blueman – Sea Tides): Honestly kind of tired tonight so here’s the trance track that started this week’s Discover Weekly on Spotify. Don’t have all that much to say about it. My reviews are thousands of words long. Let me be lazy on occasion.


Daily Hat Track: April 16 (Inofaith – Dawn is Late): I’m up a bit late tonight though not as late as this song suggests. This comes from the same EP as Nocturne which I posted a while back. Inofaith has released only a handful of tracks but this one is among the best of them.


Daily Hat Track: April 17 (Ashbury Heights – Science): If I had made a list of the best songs of 2018, this would have been near the top. One of my favorite Ashbury Heights songs as well, though The Looking Glass Society has some better ones. Anyways, this song is about depression!


Daily Hat Track: April 18 (Space Buddha – Mental Hotline): Mostly sharing this because I find the voice at the beginning of the song to be an amusing asshat. The rest of the track bangs though. If you do need help with mental issues, call a hotline if need be. Just don’t call this one.


Daily Hat Track: April 19 (Hilight Tribe – Esperanza): I’m trying to maybe finish up my review by the end of the day so um here’s a groovy trance song with a guitar. Enjoy that for nine minutes why don’t ya?


Daily Hat Track: April 20 (Neuromonakh Feofan – Ядрёность): For the track that was supposed to be posted on my birthday, I would like to share this Russian DnB and dubstep. I always find this band to be incredibly interesting.


Daily Hat Track: April 21 (The Future Sound of London – Point of Departure): For the Easter Daily Hat Track, I give you the first immersive track off of this album I just discovered by this artist I just discovered. Gonna be listening to more of this as I wash the dishes.


Daily Hat Track: April 22 (Neuromonakh Feofan – Нейромонах Феофан): Another Neuromonakh Feofan song because why not, they’re addicting. This is their titular song. Titular as in named after that artist, not the album. One of their best.


Daily Hat Track: April 23 (Chris Keya – Totentanz): One of the many highlights of this week’s Discovery Weekly. Solid drumbeat. Plenty of great guitar rocking throughout. Plus a couple of good melodies to jam to.


Daily Hat Track: April 24 (OVERWERK & Nikon – Calling): OVERWERK and Nikon are a great combination that gets better with each iteration. The most recent iteration of yesteryear being this agnostically themed track with the best Arpwerk from I’ve even heard from OVERWERK


Daily Hat Track: April 25 (VNV Nation – Space & Time): One of my very first VNV Nation songs continues to also be one of my very favorites. Really captures the beauty of the chaos of this world. Spoke to me quite well when I’d discovered it 3 years ago and it still does.


Daily Hat Track: April 26 (Mazmoneth – Kali’s Day Off): As this day comes to a close, may I introduce some odd ambience to end your day. A few melodies too. Ok actually there’s a lot of interesting stuff in this song and it develops greatly over time so I’m gonna stop listing it all.


Daily Hat Track: April 27 (OVERWERK & Mars – Know): Another OVERWERK track today. This is the runner-up to Calling on the State album and the best non-Nikon song. There’s a bit more darkness and doubt in this one despite being called “Know.” Great groove in places too.


Daily Hat Track: April 28 (Stonebank & EMEL – Stronger): Stonebank released a new song recently and for some reason, as I was listening to it I really wanted there to be a surprise DnB drop added in there towards the end. It didn’t happen so I had to listen to my fav from him again.


Daily Hat Track: April 29 (Ace Ventura & Antimony – We Dream): We Dream. It’s who we are. Best psytrance if the past week. Some inspiring relatable vocals (I’m definitely dreamer) and a great mysterious sound that feels both familiar and unique at the same time.


Daily Hat Track: April 30 (Neelix & Caroline Harrison – Makeup): 4 months in and I still haven’t shared my favorite song of all time? This psytrance masterpiece has such an intricate hidden message that I just don’t have the room to fully analyze it in a tweet. I’ll have to review it someday.




Full Daily Hat Tracks 2019 playlist here:


VNV Nation – Praise the Fallen (1998 album)

Album links

Bandcamp: n/a

Soundcloud: n/a






Introduction: VNV Nation. This is going to be an odd review for me. I’ve been exploring my favorite artists’ discographies in chronological order (technically this isn’t the debut album as the first album was re-released with some bonus tracks, so I’ll take care of the true debut later), but the issue with VNV Nation is that Ronan’s first couple albums are drastically different in style over the first few years. It doesn’t even sound like the same artist at many points. So, while I actually prefer VNV Nation over some of the other artists I’ve looked at (Andy Hunter and Ashbury Heights), this debut album will be far worse than Exodus and comparable in quality to the all too edgy Three Cheers for the Newlydeads.


Usually the VNV in VNV Nation stands for “Victory, not Vengeance.” Today, I’m not so certain.


VNV Nation – Chosen (6): VNV Nation begins this album with an ambient story. Almost makes it seem like this artist is going to be another narrative discography like, but that’s not the case this time around. This is just one song that tells one story. A story about war.


In no way, does VNV Nation romanticize war in this song. It is displayed as a disgustingly horrifying aspect of humanity (or lack thereof). Chosen specifically tells the story of a city that has been conquered by the enemy. All its citizens live in constant fear of the brutal army that has overpowered them. Fear for their life, and fear for whether any semblance of justice and reasons exists. Comparisons are made to the most devastating natural disasters, and yet, it’s clear to see that Ronan views the nature of war to be on another level of horror. There doesn’t seem to be any victory in this story. Only defeat. It’s kind of on the lesser end of VNV Nation songs lyrically, but for this album it’s par for the course


The music however, is quite good. It definitely stands out as one of the relaxing bookends of this album (most songs have the same driving drumbeat that’s absent here). There’s a good combination of ominous bass and eerie melodies throughout much of the song. And he strings in the background give a sense of beauty to the track despite the fact that the lyrics demonstrate the clear opposite of beauty. They get their own highlight for the second half of the song once the story has concluded. And as the track dies down it concludes with a piano


VNV Nation – Joy (3.25): Joy is a lot harsher than Chosen. Much of the album has this edgy monotonous drumbeat, making the entire album seem a bit angry actually. So much for “Victory not Vengeance.” There is little variety in this song to get into. The beat begins to drone on between the same kick and snare (with the only occasional variation (like the rapidfire build-up near the beginning of the song but that was kind of annoying anyways, so it barely counts). Other than that, there’s a few basslines, but none of them really strike me as anything worthwhile. There’s a melody in there every once and a while but it only gets to exist for a couple of seconds at a time. Really the strings are the only saving grace in this song. They come in every once and a while to provide a little bit of beauty and they’re greatly appreciated. However, that only undoes some of the edginess that permeates through this song


That edginess comes from the depressing lyrics. Honestly, the only joy I can hear in this song is that I’m pretty sure that the choir is singing the word “Joy” at the beginning. Everything else is extremely edgy. It’s not Ashbury Heights levels of glorifying of depression, but the nihilism is definitely present. Countless times in the song, Ronan questions whether any positivity in love is still worth it when there’s so much pain in the world. He describes a situation in which he finds no meaning in life. He compares it to a never-ending war, in which he is losing.


And honestly that goes against everything VNV Nation would come to stand for.


There is no victory.


Just vengeance.


VNV Nation – Procession (6.25): Procession starts out well enough with a lot of focus on melody. This melody comes from a soothing collection of the strings that have so far been the highlight of this album. And yet, they don’t sound quite like strings either at points. It’s still the most beautiful part of the song (though that’s not saying much. And that’s even with the odd siren tone pulsing in the background. I feel like I should have a problem with that, but I really don’t mind at all. Overall, this is a nice break from the pulsing uninteresting drumbeat that plagues this album.


A nice one-minute break…


Fine. I guess I’m being a bit harsh. This song actually does have a fair amount of variation to it. The drumbeat is still overbearing but all the other instruments have a nice enough variety to them that I can accept that. There’s a second melodic instrument that closes off that first minute that I rather enjoy. It especially does a good job of closing out the song (Yes, my favorite part of the song is when it’s over. That sounds more negative than it is). I also rather enjoy the horn that appears in the chorus.


As for the lyrics, I think we have a continuing unbalance with the vengeance threatening to take over this album. Well, there’s a bit of victory sprinkled in here too. The lines are somewhat blurred and this seems to be one of their more cryptic songs so it’s hard to tell exactly what the message is. I’m definitely going to try and parse through some moments here and there though. The victory in this song seems to focus on trying to remember the heroes who’ve been forgotten. The people that pave a way for new generations to live happily. But such people while perhaps being respected briefly are just as quickly forgotten. It’s hard to tell, but this song comes really close to almost glorifying war which I found to be slightly unnerving at first, but upon second glance, it seems to be more about respecting those who were in war. You know. A Memorial Day thing. There really is less violence and vengence here than I expected.


Except for when we break some worthless necks. Where did that come from?


VNV Nation – Voice (6.5): I really don’t have much specific to say about Voice, which is strange because it is one of the better tracks on the album. Parts of this song, specifically the arp, wouldn’t feel all that out of place in a song (my current favorite artist as you may have noted me mentioning in previous reviews). There are also a few variations on the arp and a nice driving melody that accompanies the vocals. Unfortunately, the song does get a little repetitive. Could be a bit shorter.


You know what else is repetitive? The lyrics. I’m not going to complain too much as I don’t feel like the repetition of the lyrics bothers me as much as the repetition of the music (though it is further proof that the song would be better if it was shorter). The lyrics in this one are much simpler than the last few songs which is a welcome break. The lyrics are pretty self-explanatory. We are not the same and our voices must be heard. No particular voice rules over the others. We just differ. At least that’s how I’m interpreting it. And I like my interpretation so I’m sticking with it.


VNV Nation – Forsaken (8): Forsaken is one of the two songs on this album to be later featured on The Solitary EP. Because of this, when I started listening to this song, I thought to myself “Oh I know this one.” But I didn’t. The version I knew had much more to it as far as lyrical content goes. This has three spoken lines and that’s it. Not bad though. The most important though provoking part of the song is still maintained so that’s neat.


Music first. I like to leave provoking thoughts until the end. Forsaken is thankfully one of the calmer songs on this album, meaning this break from the drumbeat, unlike the one in Procession, takes up the entire 4 minutes of the song. And it is simultaneously unsettling and beautiful. The unsettling factors in quite immediately as all the song begins with is the main melody of the song accompanied by an unfortunate heart monitor. This main melody is a slight bit irregular and at first, with the ambience surrounding it, it plays well into the ominousness. But not a minute later, combined with the strings and the arp, there’s a peaceful beauty to the whole song. It’s still the same melody but the entire tone has been transformed due to its context and I find that to be quite amazing almost serves as a parallel to the ending of the song and its entire meaning.


Forsaken is about death. This is immediately apparent when the song starts out with a flatlining heart monitor, and it’s explicitly stated in the last moments of the song, which I remember the most. There’s a few lyrics on the way to that journey, one of which I found a bit too cryptic to figure out how it fits (For thirty years, I have plotted to bring down the party. I am sick in mind and body) and the other being so vague there’s nothing much to say about it (Help me).


That final quote at the end (from Jacob’s Ladder) though really does paint a good picture of the unsettling peaceful dichotomy that is death. You can either live your life constantly fearing death, running from it despite the fact that you can’t truly escape, or you can commit your limited time in existence to a goal or meaning. Through that, you can find peace from the chaos of this world and when you reach life’s end, death is easier to accept.


Yeah, this song’s a bit morbid, but it isn’t disgustingly so. I greatly appreciate it as an artful song that sticks out like a strengthened thumb of off the withering hands of this album.


VNV Nation – Ascension (4.75): Seeing as there are no lyrics in Ascension, I’m going to have to look at this song from a musical standpoint alone. I’m not going to have much to say…


The problem is that this song is 8 minutes long. That’s a long time to commit to listening to one song, and the experience I get from this one doesn’t really make it worthwhile. There just isn’t enough distinctive variety in here to justify such a length. It has a bit of interesting progression for a bit as it introduces the various instruments, but that only lasts a couple of minutes. After a certain point the song just plateaus, and it gets harder and harder to maintain interest. I did enjoy some of the bits with the bassline and the strings working together at some points, but over time, the monotony took over. I feel like if the song had more direction, I’d be able to enjoy it more, but otherwise, I can’t bring myself to care.


VNV Nation – Honour (7.75): The word “Honour” looks wrong to me, but that’s my own personal problem as an American speller (though this is the odd case, as I actually prefer colour and theatre sometimes). Ah well, it’s an irrelevant little thought that filled my head for a brief moment.


The music in this one is definitely on the better side of this album. The way the song begins with each of the strings, bassline and drums creeping up behind the main melody does serve as a nice introduction to everything you’re getting into with this song. And that bassline could do a very good job at keeping a good drive to the song, though the drum is so overbearing, it doesn’t really need much help (you could turn that down a little… I know you’ll balance things out in the future… but I’d enjoy this more now if you’d turn it down… he can’t hear me… I’m two decades too late). Ah well, at least it compliments the melody and strings nicely. There’s a recording or two in there related to war as well (those ground troops have got to be well notified by now), but they’re fairly inconsequential to the song’s music or message.


Speaking of the message, Honour is actually the song that I feel most closely follows the “Victory not Vengeance” message that VNV stands for, making it one of the better songs on the album. It still hides behind a wall of war metaphors though, which makes it a bit harder to decipher the message. In fact, the first half of the verse is entirely there to describe the image of the battle that will serve as the backdrop for this song (which takes place in 2012 despite this album coming out in 1998).


The second half of this verse and the chorus are a bit more meaningful, though they do have a slightly inconsistent tone to them. There’s a wavering confidence in these lyrics. At first, the singer voices his concerns of what had happened to justice and reason as the chaos of war had arisen (I still find this particular sentiment to be a bit too relevant today). He then calls on either God or the spirits of those who fell before him (or both maybe) to receive guidance on the attempt to rebuild a world broken by war. As we reach the chorus, the singer is temporarily filled with confidence, letting out a war cry to defend the values he holds dear and yet still in the back of his head there’s some doubt over whether those values are still intact. The whole thing provides for a slightly messy arc though I do think I have a slight hold on the message.


These doubts that plague his mind (as well as my own, this is a bit personal) have not left him even after he’d sought out the path to victory. However, he also continues to stand his ground and keep on fighting for that victory even when those doubts in his head threaten to overtake him. Maybe I’m self-projecting my own struggles in here but the song works regardless.


VNV Nation – Burnout (1): Oh no.


This is very bad.


Perhaps this just isn’t my genre, but this is the worst sounding song I’ve reviewed so far maybe excluding Swansong (even my low rating of Swansong was perhaps generous). But at least Swansong almost lured me in by sounding good on the surface. This on the other hand. I can’t get into this one at all. I already was uncertain of it at the beginning, but then this song did the magical thing of getting worse and worse every second. The drums caught me off guard at the beginning. A bit more violent than I’d normally prefer, but with the right context they could work. This isn’t the right context. This context is filled with loads of instruments that simply don’t work well together. Any ambiance is screechy at best. Any bassline is a bit too gritty and there’s often three of them layered on top of each other in an unfitting manner. And any semblance melody is missing (unless you count that high-pitched swinging ear irritater, which I don’t).


There’s some kind of interrogation going on at the beginning harking from an old classic movie harking back from 1936: Things to Come. I hasn’t seen the film and it was only through happenstance wild goose chase that I was able track down and confirm the source, but I must say that through my research I am quite interested in checking it out so at least some good came of this song. That’s not going to improve this abysmal rating though.


VNV Nation – Solitary (7): You would’ve never guessed this, but Solitary is one of the other two songs on the Solitary EP that I’d heard previously. A song called Solitary on the Solitary EP? Mind-blowing, right? There’s even a version of Solitary on the Solitary EP called Solitude but it’s still Solitary under a different name. I’m not going to go too much over which versions of Solitary I prefer more seeing as there’s four versions of it, but I’ll tell you that this one’s in the middlish as far as I’d rate it. I’ll do more comparisons whenever I decide to get around to that EP (really low priority unless someone requests it via Patreon).


Solitary’s musical structure is rather similar to a lot of the songs on this album. It has a pounding drumbeat made almost completely of kicks. It has some strings that fall and rise at certain points in the song. It has a simple melody that’s played on loop at several points in the song (this one is only three notes though). Add in a bassline and maybe another synth (both of which this song has) and you have your typical Praise the Fallen song. It doesn’t really stand out in any way other than familiarity due to its titular EP. Thankfully, unlike the all too long monotonous Ascension, there’s at least some lyrics to go over this time.


This song is all about change, and if you’ve been reading my reviews, you’ll know I love that topic. In fact, this song shares a lot of similarities with the main themes off of Crossroads, seeing as it’s a song about leaving the guilty past behind and reaching out into the future. Nearly every song on that album was about that subject. Well let’s add another one to the list! Except this one is on a completely different album by a completely different artist and contributes nothing to the narrative whatsoever


My same feelings apply though. I am a strong believer in striving to take control of one’s life and changing it for the better, leaving the past in the dust if you must. The past doesn’t have to define who we are but we, at any point, have the power to define our future.


Overall, I’d say this song is the closest to resembling the modern VNV Nation I’m more accustomed to. It has its flaws but it’s a step towards the modern standard.


VNV Nation – PTF2012 (6): As we head nearer to the close of the album, we only have two calm instrumental songs to review. They’re simple beauties so I’ll be brief. I do want to note one odd thing about this title though. This technically is the titular track of the album. It doesn’t look like it, but there is an alternate title seen in the bottom corner of the album art that matches this song name. PTF is an abbreviation for Praise the Fallen. 2012 is simply a random year that Ronan Harris chose for a once futuristic date to set this album (see Honour).


I don’t want to say this track is just strings even though that technically is true. There are no non-stringed instruments present (actually after listening a couple more times, there might be a horn but I’m not absolutely certain). However, I feel like calling it “just strings” has a somewhat bad connotation to it. The song is beautiful, and it does have a rising feel to it from beginning to end, making it a much better progression than the twice as long “Asscension” from earlier. However, it isn’t especially memorable as nothing particularly sticks out to me. It’s just a decent stringed track cooling us down after all the heavy drumbeats we’ve had.


VNV Nation – Schweigeminute (n/a): I have seen evidence, that this song exists, but I am unable to find it anywhere on the internet. I’d probably have to find a physically copy of the album to hear it. That’s okay though, because it’s apparently just a minute of silence and should hold no weight on my final review score.


VNV Nation – Untitled (6): Wow, what a fantastically interesting title. Really tells you everything you need to know about the song. This is a rather bland conclusion to the album, so I’ll be brief once again. This song suffers a bit from repetition as it perpetually plays the same melody on loop for a good 90% of the song. It has a little bit of musical variety as there’s a second synth that fades in and out like a tide. Because of this, the song almost becomes a soothing relaxing conclusion to the album, but the melody doesn’t quite reach up to its soothing potential. Ah well, still a decent experience overall.


Conclusion: Really a poor start to one of my favorite artists. This is a far cry from what he makes nowadays. I’m all about a bit of edge here and there, but early VNV Nation isn’t quite the edge I’d like from them. VNV Nation usually admits that there’s negative vengeful aspects to life while simultaneously shining light on a path through the pain towards victory and peace. That path is absent from this album. It’s almost entirely focused on the darkness and it simply doesn’t work quite as well as I’d like (though I guess the edge here isn’t as bad as it was in Ashbury Heights’ Three Cheers for the Newlydeads).


The biggest problem with this album is the overbearing drumbeat. I like a good solid drumbeat but this one was too much, and it upset the entire balance of the song, nearly drowning out all of the other melodies, basslines and vocals. The lack of a drumbeat is actually a big part of why Forsaken (the only song on the album to get a rating higher than an 8) stands out.


I would highly recommend some of VNV Nation’s newer albums that have been released in the past decade (Transnational is my favorite). You’d be better off skipping some of the older stuff. I, on the other hand, have an obsession with order, so I shall be trudging through these edgier albums first. Ah well. Next week I plan on a larger scale review of a much better album.


Final Score: (5.75/10)