Review: VNV Nation – Of Faith, Power and Glory

There was some sharp difference of opinion on the recent direction Ronan Harris has taken the VNV project, particularly on the last album, Judgement. Softsynth engaged in some heated debate on LastFM on the thesis that Judgement was VNV Nation’s best and most fully realized album to date. Two and a half years on we remain of that thought though we know many disagree. 

Now Harris brings us the latest: Of Faith Power and Glory. What has he cooked up this time? Well, a little “more of the same”, a little sampling of “if you liked Judgement, get ready for Judgement hyped up on Crystal Meth” and a little of “now what the hell do we do for an encore?”.

Harris has, throughout the history of VNV Nation, built on what came before with each successive effort. At no point has he stood back and said, “yeah…this.” The band has morphed slowly, steadily from a largely instrumental effort, one of many clatterings, banging pipes and sequencers, to the introduction of vocals, then a souςon of melody, then a bit of a pop sensibility, until now, when we find ourselves knee deep in the most potentially accessible VNV Nation album to date.Judgement got the mix just right. Melodic but with a wink to the industrial roots of the band; pop touches but with a clear foot still in the EBM camp. And most notably, big, bombastic, arena-appropriate songs.  Of Faith, Power and Glory takes all this one step further and sometimes it works, other times it strays a little too far from the camp where it finds itself vulnerable to the roaming dingos.

What Judgement did right was found in that magical balance. “Testament” is the perfect coda for that album – big, blowsy, arena-rock with a sampled guitar riff, a slowed-down bridge to catch one’s breath and then back to the pulsating, unrelenting breakneck chorus. The newest offering seems to be trying to build off that success. Sometimes it works. The opening track “Pro Victoria” is an interesting, marching band instrumental anthem, that speaks to something new, though something with a familiar militaristic vibe for the band (and rest assured, the “war is bad; all the poopy armies of the world should just do a gut check” lyrics run rampant throughout this album). After that we settle in to familiar waters. Tracks like “Where There is Light”, “The Great Divide” (“Just for a second look into your heart/as you stand and look across the great divide” – bombastic as he’s ever been) and “Defiant” are of the big, sweeping lyrics and synth washes we now come to expect from the band and while it feels a little repetitive and lacks the emotional intensity and sense of surprise we found on Judgement, it still works because Harris does it so damn well. And sometimes we get a glimpse of something new, “Verum Æternus” is a lovely, slow build from soft ballad to explosive dance track; “Sentinal” may be the most straightforward dance track the band has yet recorded; “From My Hands” is the boldest song on the album – when we reviewed Judgement a few years back the thing that stuck out most was, as we said at the time, “‘Illusion’ may be the first genuinely pretty song the band has ever recorded” – now they’ve/he’s gone that step further with a genuine piano ballad love song. Who’d a thunk it? 

At the same time there’s some delightfully retro throwback tracks to days of VNV Nation past such as the plodding “Art of Conflict” that will please long time fans of the bands’ earlier, more experimental work. 

All in all, the new work from VNV Nation may feel like they are sometimes treading water, running in place, if you will, but Harris does this stuff so well, it doesn’t really matter. Of Faith, Power and Glory, the band’s seventh album, shows that Harris is still the master of the post-EBM anthem, the big, electro stomper and when it works it works really damn well. We thank the stars above for a band like this that knows how to do this so seemingly effortlessly and celebrate another solid entry in the VNV Nation pantheon. 

Listen: Where There is Light

softsynth

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8 Responses to “Review: VNV Nation – Of Faith, Power and Glory”

  1. pteittinen Says:

    Watched/listened to the video. It’s not electro. I wouldn’t even classify it as electronic. It’s light rock, and pretty damn bland, too.

    (And I do so detest the fact that people who were barely able to walk in the 80’s have no idea that ‘electro’ refers to music like Africa Bambaataa and Planet Patrol.)

  2. softsynth Says:

    There is a blandness to much of the album but it is unabashedly electronic. Harris is nothing if not an electronic purist (listen to the album).

    And not sure if it was directed at me but I was a teenager in the 80s, when I first became a fan of electronic music. I was never a fan of Bambaataa et al but I respect the contribution to the umbrella genre.

  3. Finally received my copy of this – I’ve listened a couple of times and currently I’m a bit underwhelmed. The album seems very predictable, it’s VNV-by-numbers and follows a very familiar pattern. I’ve been a fan since Empires and welcomed their move from EBM to a more general electronic sound. But they’ve had the same template since Matter + Form and I see no signs of things moving on.

    I’m sure I will pick out some favourites from Of Faith, Power And Glory soon, but for now I’d rather substitute the same-song-but-it’s-more-more-familiar from previous albums.

  4. Actually I take most of that back: with repeated plays I like this album more and more. It’s still absolutely a VNV Nation album, but I guess that’s nothing to complain about really. Of Faith, Power and Glory could even end up in my Top 20 of the year…

    • softsynth Says:

      It certainly grows. It’s neither original nor does it break any new ground but it’s Harris doing what Harris does exceptionally well. He’s skating a little to close to the chart pop edge (nothing wrong with chart pop per se but it’s not where VNV Nation belong), but there are songs on here I genuinely like. If you like bombast and “the world is coming to an end what are we going to do to save it at the brink?” lyrics, the album scores highly.

  5. b.r.o.o.d.y. Says:

    So I’m not the only one that found this album grows on you the more you listen to it. The first time I didn’t take much of a liking to it. At about the 10th play through I suddenly found I couldn’t put it down. I wonder why that happens to so many people.

    OFPAG is far from VNV at its finest, but it has a certain edginess to it that I’ve grown to love. Still, I hope their next release takes their sound in another direction. Ronan Harris has too much promise to become a pop singer- VNV has always been at its best when it threads new ground and experiments!

  6. […] VNV Nation since 1999’s Empires, but on first hearing this just seemed like more of the same. Softsynth reviewed it and I commented “I’m a bit underwhelmed. The album seems very predictable, it’s […]

  7. They have a formula that works, right?

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