VNV Nation is one of those acts I’m not super-familiar with, yet I know exactly where they came from. Of course, I’m speaking symbolically. I enjoy everything I’ve heard, but I’m not yet the devoted fan that this European act often commands. But I do admire VNV’s roots, which is firmly planted in early ’90s old-school synthesized industrial rhythm, like Front 242, Nitzer Ebb and the like. Hell, I used to listen to that stuff all the time, interviewed a bunch of them during the old music journalism days, and caught a lot of them live. So yeah, I get it.
My appreciation of VNV starts with the newer material, then trickles backwards to said roots. This post focuses on a particularly uplifting track from the latest LP “Noire,” titled “Armour,” which is essentially what transpires when vintage industrial angst evolves into synth-laced positivity. It’s still got piston rhythms and winter vibes, but it’s coated in electro-enlightenment. It feels like euphoric trance filtered through an industrial sieve. And to me, that’s kinda fascinating to witness.
VNV, which stands for Victory Not Vengeance, is the alt-electronic project of Ronan Harris, an Irishman transplanted to Germany, which would explain some of his colder industrial-synth inclinations. He’s been around since the mid-’90s, which also explains his early influences. But what makes VNV a curiosity is the positive spin he places on the lyrics, which are prominently featured in much of his later work. I’ve seen this trend on some old school industrial acts, but more in terms of attitude and presentation than actual composition. There’s still a lot of anger, but it’s redirected into optimistic action versus a lot of distorted yelling and heavy beats.
VNV’s motto kind of sums it up … “One should strive to achieve, not sit in bitter regret.” I lifted that from the VNV website, and it makes complete sense. “Armour” is probably a more direct take on that motto, both musically and lyrically. But it’s still a great listen.
VNV Nation will be playing next Thursday at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. I’ve never seen them live, except on YouTube videos, where Harris has a three member backing band. But I hear in person, they’ve got great energy and stage presence. And next week, I’ll be able to speak to that firsthand.
In the meantime, here’s “Armour” to keep things on the up and up.
“Armour” from the 2018 album “Noire.”