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Of Faith, Power and Glory

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Album Review

Some bands make their mark from the get-go and never quite seem to escape that first burst of creativity, while others build on what they started with to reach newer heights over time. Over the course of many years and albums, Ronan Harris and Mark Jackson have proven themselves to be a stellar example of the latter, with the work of VNV Nation turning from a series of sometimes overly stern homages to pioneers of electronic body music to an increasingly warm and romantic approach combined with an equal love of rabble-rousing punk shoutalongs and stadium-scaled rave celebrations. Of Faith, Power and Glory continues a run of albums in this vein since Futureperfect and is arguably the pinnacle of the approach, a refinement of the pattern established by that album and almost a sequel to 2007's Judgement, down to the monument-in-a-dark-landscape cover art. As with that release, for example, here there's a stirring instrumental opener ("Pro Victoria," perhaps as close to an In the Nursery-style song the group has yet recorded), a piano-led ballad towards the end ("From My Hands"), a lengthy near-instrumental with occasional interjections from Harris ("Art of Conflict"), and a downbeat, defiantly moody song after an initial series of instant anthems ("Ghost"). But far from being a simple rehash, Of Faith, Power and Glory is actually the more cohesive album, longer than Judgement but feeling more of a compact piece, surging from strength to strength almost effortlessly. The album's second song but first full-on dancefloor pounder, "Sentinel," showcases the band's gifts nicely — Harris' tense, rough-edged quaver and vocals grappling with big issues lyrically, a chorus you can almost sing along with before even hearing it in full for the first time, and a recombination of electronic elements from many different eras of popular music. But "Tomorrow Never Comes," with a shuddering introductory riff that melds into a heavenly blend of swooping string synths and calm piano, and especially "The Great Divide," featuring a chorus that turns an already striking song (almost like Neu! gone synth pop) — take things even higher; if anything captures what Harris had once described years earlier as 'future pop,' this might well be it. Other immediately catchy winners fill out the rest of the album without a flaw — the upbeat celebratory groove of "In Defiance," the slow build and release of "Verum Aeternus," with some of Harris' loveliest singing in the second half after an extended break, and the concluding punch of "Where There Is Light," a note-perfect conclusion for a band so dedicated to energetic reinvigoration and going out to face the world with hope. In a world where bands like the Hold Steady and the Gaslight Anthem get praise for similar sentiments delivered via rock & roll, there seems to be no reason why VNV Nation shouldn't get some credit of their own.

Biography

Formed: 1990 in London, England

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The electronic project VNV ("Victory Not Vengeance") Nation was conceived in London in 1990 by Ronan Harris, debuting in May of that year with the 12" "Body Pulse." "Strength of Youth" followed a few months later, and at the end of the year Harris relocated to Toronto, where VNV Nation opened for Nitzer Ebb on their Canadian tour. After moving back to Europe, Harris released only a handful of compilation tracks in the years to follow before signing with the German label Discordia in 1995 to issue...
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Of Faith, Power and Glory, VNV Nation
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