Frontiers Records (Release date 17.09.21)
Vega’s seventh album ‘Anarchy and Unity’ breaks their cycle of a new release every two years, coming less than 18 months after ‘Grit Your Teeth’. That not entirely successful predecessor took the UK melodic rockers in a heavier direction under the production guidance of the Graves Brothers. This time they have produced themselves and the change of direction continues, this time in a more raw, rough and ready style with less polish and fewer keyboards.
The arrival of two new band members in former inglorious guitarist Billy Taylor and prolific drummer Pete Newdeck have both toughened up the band’s image and sound. That much is clear from the album’s opening two songs-‘Beautiful Lie’ propelled by some fast-paced drumming though the Vega hallmarks of fine guitar work and a soaring chorus from Nick Workman are still there, and ‘Sooner or Later’- boasting an intro a little like U2’s ‘Vertigo’, a touch of Guns’n’Roses in the vocal style of the verses and a big overdriven guitar sound- is a curveball of energy that weighs in at under three minutes.
After ‘Edge of the Fade’ sees a return of the U2- isms that characterised their earlier work, ‘Ain’t Who I Am’ and ‘Welcome to Wherever’ are widescreen anthems with big choruses: there is a lot going on instrumentally on the former, while the latter is the type of track Bon Jovi should be writing these days if JBJ could be bothered to rock out in a contemporary way.
The most controversial song is ‘Bring the Riot’ which both musically and lyrically is probably as close as Vega have or ever will get to punk and also lends itself to similar album imagery with a Union Jack patterned clenched fist and an anarchy symbol where the A on the band’s log usually is. This seems almost too far removed from their musical roots, and yet it is easy to envisage it as a great live anthem to spark a pogo.
The ballad ‘Live For Me’ initially rather passed me by other than a great guitar solo from Marcus Thurston which suddenly emerges mid song. It grew with subsequent listenings though over six minutes is probably too long to hold the attention.
‘Kneel to You’ is closer to ‘old ‘ Vega with a balance of keys and guitar, and likewise ‘Had Enough’ in which Nick’s voice soars accompanied by another fast fingered, if short, solo by Marcus.
The guitar sound is tougher with more layers and lead guitar occasionally doubled up. The epitome of this guitar heavy approach is ‘Glow’ which comes to a brilliant ending. ‘C’mon’, after a brief swing- type intro is a punchy pop punker with a lolloping groove that draws comparisons with Theory of a Deadman, while ‘2 Die 4‘ eventually supplies another trademark anthemnic chorus.
As an unashamed fan on the direction they took on earlier albums like ‘Stereo Messiah’ and ‘Who We Are’ I will freely admit that on first listen I found this their weakest effort so far. I’m happy to say that having invested in a few more spins and acclimatised to the heavier sound, their hallmark hooks and melodies are very much still present and it is good to see one of the UK’s leading melodic rockers successfully exploring fresh strings to their bow and broadening their appeal. ****
Review by Andy Nathan
vega (October 2021)
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