Matter + Form (Metropolis)
Victory Not Vengeance, better known as VNV Nation, has been a survivor in the fickle music business since 1990. Perseverance in a genre that has been a rollercoaster in the past decade was rewarded in 1999 when their third full-length album, Empires, reached the number one slot on the German Alternative Charts. Each release since, 2002’s Futurperfect and 2005’s Matter + Form, has also graced the number one slot of the GAC. They’re a regular headliner at large European festivals, yet ask average America fans about VNV Nation and they’ll likely tell you they’ve never heard of the German dance behemoth.
On Matter + Form, lyricist and composer Ronan Harris continues to bring powerful, insightful lyrics that bleed sincerity. He touches on topics of the past in “Homeward,” the future in “Entropy,” our society in “Arena,” nations in “Entropy,” and the self in “Perpetual” and “Endless Skies.” The biggest message of Matter + Form, and for that matter, every VNV Nation album, is to value every moment of your life. In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” It’s a sentiment that’s particularly apt in an American society that’s torn over politics and religion. The album title itself is a reference to alchemy and a period of historical science when religion and science co-existed side by side without the strife and mutual contempt exhibited today.
With elements of EBM, trance, down tempo, and pop, Harris and his collaborator, Mark Jackson, achieve an emotional depth by approaching each song as a scene in a larger story. An example of this is the melody heard during the climatic song “Perpetual” that was foreshadowed briefly during the opening bars of “Chrome” (a dance hit and the band’s first single ever released to the Internet). One of the elements that distinguishes this album from previous VNV Nation efforts is the dramatic use of Mark Jackson’s performance on live drums over the more traditional usage of programmed drums. Jackson’s live drums flesh out songs such as “Entropy” and “Perpetual,” adding more weight and strength without sacrificing beauty and subtlety.
Not only is Matter + Form one of the top five releases in the Goth/industrial/dance genre this year, but it’s easily one of the top 20 releases of any genre in 2005.