Frontiers [Release date 12.06.20]
Vega have made a series of quality albums in the 2010’s, deserving full credit for perseverance as, despite dynamic live shows, they have yet to break into the big time for reasons unknown. Their sixth album ‘Grit your Teeth’ sees them taking perhaps the biggest chances yet to break that spell.
When they started, their bright modern sound broke the melodic rock mould but over the years they have moved closer to the mainstream of the genre and – to be honest – vice versa. So on this occasion they have somewhat shaken up their sound, accompanied by a change of production team to the Graves Brothers match, and fully embraced contemporary sounds without losing their core elements.
As a result ‘Blind’ is notably heavier with a dirty guitar sound from Marcus Thurston, though single ‘Perfection’ is a bright anthem. It begins in very average form by their standards, until a trademark Vega ‘yay-yay-yeah’ chorus kicks in to lift the song to a new plane.
‘Grit Your Teeth’ has a spacious arrangement with a good groove that keeps reminding me of Little Angels, complete with a mid-section break and solos inspired by ‘Keep The Faith’. ‘Man On A Mission’ follows the direction of recent Shinedown releases, heavy and even with a distorted vocal intro from Nick Workman, yet somehow danceable.
While ‘Don’t Fool Yourself’, with its searing chorus, ‘This One’s For You’ and ‘How We Live’ are more traditional Vega songs, others are more experimental, notably ‘Consequence Of Having A Heart’, with a melody line that reminds me of Tears For Fears ‘Mad World’, and ‘Battles Ain’t A War’, contemporary sounding yet still very melodic with a sweet solo from Marcus and some choral chanting on the outro.
Chief songwriters Tom and James Martin have never been afraid to embrace the dominant sounds of 21st century pop in their arrangements, and this is given even freer rein this time, so more traditional classic rock fans will require a degree of open mindedness to embrace songs like ‘Save Me From Myself’.
The album closes with another departure for them in ‘Done With Me’, direct and almost pop punk in its approach as it weighs in at under three minutes, with a welter of ‘hey hey heys’.
Initially I wasn’t convinced these were their strongest set of songs yet, and the experiments with different directions mean you need to give the album time to grow on you. Nevertheless Vega are to be commended for successfully escaping any melodic rock rut, while still managing to add plenty of songs to their ever growing catalogue of live anthems. ****
Review by Andy Nathan
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 2 August 2020.
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