VNV Nation und Das Film Orchester Babelsburg
Album: Resonance – Music for Orchestra Vol. 1
Blurb: Ronan Harris makes his dream come true of performing VNV Nation’s greatest hits with an orchestra with some solid results.
For years now, VNV Nation front man Ronan Harris has wanted to perform his songs with an orchestral accompaniment. Many of his songs have used a digital orchestra for remixes and live performances, and many VNV songs lend themselves well to orchestral arrangement. Harris finally got his wish in 2012 when he performed at Gothic Meets Klassik in Leipzig, Germany. That performance was recorded with the intention of future release, but the audio was of poor quality, so the project was scrapped, although he performed several more times with different orchestras. So it should have come as no surprise when he announced that he was going to record an album of greatest hits with Das Film Orchester Babelsburg (German Film Orchestra of Babelsberg – the same orchestra Rammstein used for the 2009 album Liebe Ist Für Alle Da).
Resonance is the culmination of Harris’ vision, his words set to classical music. But was it worth the wait? As stated earlier, many VNV songs lend themselves well to orchestral sound, and the songs Harris chose for the record are some of the best examples of this. “Legion” had previously been recorded with a classical music intro for the Honour 2003 EP, while “Nova” and “Illusion” had been often been performed live with a more classical sound, so it’s expected that these songs transitioned well into a more traditional sound. In fact, most of the songs transitioned into classical quite well, with some really outstanding performances. “Further” from the Burning Empires EP has an impact and depth not found in the original or its subsequent remixes. The much beloved theme song of VNV, “Solitary” is given new life in this version, sounding as if it were meant for an opera that has yet to be released. But it’s the popular club track “Standing” that might be the real standout of the whole album; as powerful as the original is, this may be the most definitive version, its ebb and flow an emotional journey through the story of a man and his love. It is a great performance, there is no question, but it is by no means flawless.
The fact of the matter is, we have all heard these songs before. With the rare opportunity to have an orchestra at his disposal, Harris may have wanted to write some original material. Even one new song would have been a breath of fresh air as many of the songs on the record are, by VNV standards, old standbys that we have all heard countless times. The other glaring issue with the record is the vocals. Electronic music can hide many flaws in a singers work, and compared to other vocalists in the scene, Ronan is a solid performer. But completely clean vocals in front of classical music shows the limits of his ability. Does he have incredible vocal range? No. But he doesn’t need to for the majority of the music he creates. Should he have gotten another, more classically trained singer to perform his songs? Maybe. But I cannot blame the man for wanting to sing on his own work. It is his and this clearly has been a dream of his.
Resonance is a great oddity. In a scene often inspired by classical music, the music is rarely, if ever, performed alongside it. And it is a sophisticated way of listening to VNV hits that you have come to love. This record also shows that VNV is bigger than the scene it was birthed from. Fans of classical music should love this as it is a good and sometimes great performance. If this record does anything, I hope it gives Harris the confidence to explore this genre more, and perhaps write a totally original orchestral piece. Maybe that should be his next dream.
VNV Nation/Anachron Sounds
Website, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
Storming the Base CD
Storming the Base CD/Vinyl Box Set
John Galope (SilentBKS)