:CD Review: VNV Nation – Automatic

VNV Nation – Automatic
Release Date: September 16, 2011 Europe/October 25, 2011 North America
Label: Anachron
Website: vnvnation.com

Review by: Jeremy Davey

VNV Nation. Is there really much else a person can say about the importance and prolificness of this band that hasn’t already been said? Love them or hate them, there is no denying how much Ronan Harris and Mark Jackson (yes, I know Ronan Harris is the main composer, but can you imagine VNV without Mr. Jackson???) have done to bring our shadowed corner of the musical world into the light for the past 16 years. They have drawn ire from some “underground” music elitists for their refusal to compromise their vision; they have composed and performed the music they want without bending to the whims of critics and nay-sayers alike, and they should be applauded for that. They are what true underground music is all about. To dismiss them simply because they’ve garnered more popularity than some others is to dismiss true art in favor of silly elitism. Love it or hate it, facts are facts. With that being said, let’s move on to what is probably the best release VNV Nation has produced since Futureperfect, the epic Automatic.

Upon initial listening, the first thing you will notice about Automatic is how layered and thick the songs sound. This is a definite return to the truly epic qualities of earlier VNV Nation releases. Don’t get me wrong, I loved their last few albums, but there is no denying that they had a bit of stripped down sound when compared to releases like Empires and Futureperfect. That just isn’t the case with Automatic. The huge, symphonic elements are on full display, intermingling perfectly with more modern synth sounds and creating a world of audio where yesterday and tomorrow are thrust together, creating one wonderful sonic blip in time. Lyrically, Automatic is unapologetically inspiring and uplifting, but never crosses over into the realm of sappiness. While VNV Nation has always been known for their anthemic songs, the lyrics on Automatic almost give the listener the sense that the songs are being sung to you, personally. It is a rare quality in modern music, and not one that many can pull off successfully. Without doubt, this achievement is helped out greatly by some of Ronan Harris’ most impressive vocal performances to date. His warm tone and ability to convey emotion is second to none, and when combined with his truly poetic lyrics adds greatly to the overall epic sound of this album.

While I find it almost impossible to single out any tracks that stand out more than others on Automatic (outside of the couple instrumentals, every song could easily be a single), there are a couple in particular that I’m quite sure will end up being official singles. “Resolution” is one of those songs that convey to the listener that, while things seem bad now, it will get better. It is also very danceable. This is a song I can see audience members singing along to at shows. Most of you have probably already heard the song “Control”, and it is the ‘floor-filler’ on this release. With it’s gruff sound, hard beats, and searing synth work, I dare you to sit still while listening to this tune. “Nova” is the ballad on Automatic, and it is also one that the crowd will be swaying and singing along to at live shows. The chorus really soars on this one, and you’ll probably find yourself singing along to it by the time you make your way through the first listen.

Automatic could easily be the album that truly pushes VNV Nation into the big leagues. Whether you’re an old fan or a newcomer, you are sure to love this album; it is undoubtedly one of VNV Nation’s finest releases to date!

Track List:
1. On-Air
2. Space & Time
3. Resolution
4. Control
5. Goodbye 20th Century
6. Nova
7. Streamline
8. Gratitude
9. Photon
10. Radio

Download Automatic from Amazon MP3.

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