6. Distant (rubicon II)
VNV Nation are a part of the new "synth-core" wave of bands that attempts to combine 80s new wave, industrial and goth elements into its music. They're the sort of band that fills the dance clubs of the hip gothsters, and it's not hard to imagine why, given the slick European feel of this music. Looking deeper into Empires, though, I cannot imagine why anyone would want to subject themselves to this junk. Awful awful awful.
It sounds rather like what you'd expect it to, given the description: soft, listener-friendly beats, full, exaggerated synths and spoken-sung vocals. This particular album, I'm told, leans more towards the catchy side than their earlier stuff, which was "harder". Whatever. If the astoundingly whiney, off-key, moronically morose vocals don't get to you, the cheesy, one-finger-at-a-time synths surely will. And these chaps aren't too bright - they put those synths way on the foreground. There is no distinct, perceptible mood established by Empires: it sounds like a cliched, simplistic, watered-down version of early goth music like the Sisters of Mercy or Suicide. Besides, it's just really monotonous and the vocalist uses the same, unchallenging vocal "melodies" in nearly every song. What is the he doing, anyway? Is he suggesting things? Why is he so miserable? But he doesnt really sound like he's miserable, he sounds like he's just trying really hard to make himself sound miserable. I suppose if I really had to pick the least of the ten atrocities here, I'd take the two instrumentals, "Firstlight" and "Saviour", over the others. I'd rather not go into the lyrics at all.
I had never heard VNV Nation before listening to this particular album, and, hopefully, will never have the misfortune of hearing any more. It's amazing how emotionally void this music is, though it desperately attempts to be otherwise. I suppose some of that can be imputed to the genre itself, but I've seen too many bands do it well to not be cynical with Empires. Plastic, soul-less, and thoroughly unengaging, yet a distressingly appropriate ode to the latest generation of music listeners. It's the aurual equivalent of fake jewellery, ornamented with gaudy pretense.
Review by Rahul Joshi
Review date: 05/2002