A band being around for a long time is always bound to bring two things: progression and change. Since forming in 2004, Vanna has released three albums, each one sounding different than the one before. Again, Vanna has really changed it up on their fourth full-length release entitled The Few and the Far Between, but it's a change that's welcomed with open arms from me. The new sound continues down the road of more aggression, and at times chaos, which brings to mind bands like The Chariot, Code Orange Kids, and Stray from the Path. This connection can be made very early on in The Few and the Far Between with the first two tracks (the title track and "The Lost Art of Staying Alive").
While The Few and the Far Between is more hardcore oriented than previous releases from this Massachusetts-native five piece, there are a few tracks that fans of Vanna's old material will definitely enjoy. On "Year of the Rat" and "The Weekly Slap in the Face", Vanna combines upbeat and crushing verses with catchy, melodic choruses. You will likely notice that the clean vocals on this release sound different (the previous clean vocalist, Evan Pharmakis, left the band in 2012); they have remained catchy, but in an entirely different way.
Some other notable tracks include "Please Stay", "The Dreamer, the Thief, the Relic", and the album closer titled "His Heels". "Please Stay" can be likened to "Scarlet Shroud" off And They Came Baring Bones because of its interlude-type vibe, but it's much stronger because of the addition of Rachel Quarell's angelic voice heard throughout the song. Also, the culminating guitar melodies of the outro coupled with a slight build up is one of my favourite parts on the album. After 20-plus listens, this song still gives me goosebumps.
Vanna comes strikingly close to ripping off Defeater's "Dear Father" during the verses of "The Dreamer, the Thief, the Relic", but even after taking that into consideration, it's a very strong track, which makes sense because Defeater is one of the best of their genre. Like several songs on The Few and the Far Between, "The Dreamer, the Thief, the Relic" is improved by well-executed clean vocals. No matter what I'm doing or where I am, I always find myself singing along "Do I have the strength?"
The last track, "His Heels", is my personal favourite because it blends Vanna's past sounds into one excellent song. It's heavy, it's fast, and the build up sets up the cleanly sung outro very nicely. "His Heels" is, simply put, the perfect track to close out Vanna's fourth full-length release.
The only thing about The Few and the Far Between that I wasn't fond of was the singing on "I Said I'm Fine". "I Said I'm Fine" starts off by punching you in the gut with a low-end bass intro followed by two more punches to the gut during one of the most aggressive verses on the album. Then the clean vocals come in, and that's when things take a turn for the worse. The singing sounds lackluster on this track, and even more importantly, it's extremely out of place and ruins the flow of the song. Thankfully, Vanna gets back on track and picks things up for an interesting finish to the song (which features Ethan Harrison of Great American Ghost).
If you're a fan of Vanna's post-hardcore/metalcore material, the change in style heard on The Few and the Far Between may take you a few listens to swallow. With that being said, don't give up on this album if you don't initially like what you're hearing. The minor blemishes that I mentioned along the way are heavily outweighed by the positives, and The Few and the Far Between is the band's most dynamic and polished release to date.
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