On their recent tour with Vanna, Every Time I Die frontman Keith Buckley implored the crowd in Syracuse, NY to buy the Boston quintet’s latest release, The Few and the Far Between, stating with a joking grin on his face that this record was “For fans of: Of Mice & Men, I See Stars, and . . . Nickelback.” With that said, I can assure you that this album sounds nothing like any of those bands, which is a damn good thing.
Vocalist Davey Muise explains TFATFB by saying, “All of those people who have affected our lives on the road are the few and the far between. They make us who we are. We joke around that we wish we could compile all of them in one city and live there forever.” It’s certainly a romantic concept, but as the impetus for this album, it works. Vanna is a live band in every way; it is where they are at their best and anybody who has seen them perform can attest to this. So then the question becomes: how do you translate that live passion into recorded perfection?
I am not qualified to answer that question completely, but I can tell you that having Davey Muise as your frontman sure helps.
Of the three vocalists in the band’s history, Muise is easily the most capable of combining both raw energy and visceral lyricism into the perfect punch that this band has always needed. Furthermore, this is the first album featuring Joel Pastuszak on lead guitar and backing vocals, which results in a much-needed change toward a grittier and more punishing sound. Pastuszak’s arrival also brings much more refined backing vocals and The Few and the Far Between noticeably lacks the overtly whiny vocals so often found in today’s metalcore.
The album opens with the title track, a slow dirge featuring dissonant and haunting guitars, complemented by Muise’s isolated and distorted voice that caps the track with the repetition of the phrase “I believe in you / If you believe in me!”
This intro transitions seamlessly into “The Lost Art of Staying Alive,” which ominously begins with the line “So it begins again . . .” that almost serves as a secondary introduction to the album, as well as a desperate and ironic exclamation on the rigorous monotony of life and its preservation. This theme threads its way throughout the entire song which grinds through a rhythmic series of punishing riffs.
Up next, the album’s lead single “Year of the Rat” hits hard right from the beginning as one of its fastest tracks. Also, the song is the first to showcase Pastuszak’s introduction on backing vocals, which really complements Muise’s voice. The two exchange a series of lyrics during the song’s overtly catchy chorus, with Muise beginning: “This is the year that I die! / How many times have I said goodbye? / Farewell to my former life / Eyes closed, hold tight / Look to the light!” This line emphasizes the extremely introspective nature that Muise threads through the entire album, making for some of the best lyrics in the band’s history. Musically the song is distinctly gritty, matching the visceral nature of Muise’s voice and making for one of the heaviest tracks on the album.
Another notable track is “I Said I’m Fine,” which sticks out to me due to the lyrics, “Black shoes, black shirt, black heart” that practically demand to be noticed as a reference to Rancid’s “Time Bomb” and Tim Armstrong’s line “Black coat, black shoes, black hat, Cadillac, boy’s a time bomb!” The song, like most on the album, is short and poignant, not wasting any time on superfluous notes or excessively boring riffs but focusing on the best the band has to offer.
I could easily go into a track-by-track summary of the album, but that’s unnecessary. I will say that this is the best album Vanna has ever written and their current lineup is easily the tightest of their career. With The Few and the Far Between Vanna has finally stepped into the dirty hardcore band they were born to be. While the album does fall into a few of the trappings of generic metalcore, such as an over-produced sound and some instances of classic chugging, the majority of the album breaks from these norms and proves that the band has evolved greatly since they first put out their debut full length Curses.