Release Date: 31st August 2018
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Hard Rock
With bands like Greta Van Fleet causing all sorts of commotion with their *very* Zeppelin-esque take on classic rock revival, it seems like it took one guy and his Robert Plant impression to bring some mainstream hype back to hard rock. However, I’ve seen The Vintage Caravan, an Icelandic three-piece formed back in ’06, as the heralds of riff-heavy retro rock for a while now. Their 2012 sophomore album, Voyage, really impressed me, with its hard’n’fast approach to the genre. While their 2015 release, Arrival, led in by single “Crazy Horses”, built upon this, as their hook-writing skills began to take hold; it was an album full of choons.
Now, we come to Gateways, the group’s fourth full-length, second on Nuclear Blast. Not much has happened in between then and now, apart from, as evident from the songs on Gateways, a more mature songwriting style being developed. Nevertheless, I was excited to see what the boios could do on their fourth odyssey.
Opening the album is “Set Your Sights”, and what an opener it is. We are plunged immediately into this fuzzed-up riffage, the harmonic guitars pounding out a driving groove. It’s all you want from a hard rock song, with Óskar Logi Ágústsson’s anthemic vocals bellowing out in the verses and chorus; there’s no letting up on this intro. I love the Bonzo-esque drum breaks in the bridge, showing inspiration and variation in equal amounts.
This track sums up the overall mood of Getaways — it’s rock music. It’s rock music of the highest order. Sure, there’s little in the way of critical commentary of today’s society, but it’s got plenty of *ripping* guitar solos, with attitude to match. Óskar is a great frontman, and a deceivingly mature center of the album. His youth is reflected in the energy in his performance, but there’s an abscence of the recklessness that, for me, defined a lot of the Caravan’s early material. For better or worse, he sounds more measured here. You can hear this is the lack of variation in the vocal lines on the album — it does seem to be quite samey. While it’s more than fitting for instrumental rampage surrounding it, I would have liked to have seen him throw a curveball at some point.
That said, it’s the THUNDEROUS guitar parts that acts as the true star of Getaways. A prime example of this is on “Reflections”. With it the rumbling bass submerging the low end of the mix, the guitars feel fully seperate and free to aerate the track. The storming riff boosts Óskar’s vocals, ramped up by the crunchy drum patterns. To top it all off, we have a fantastic guitar solo near the end of the song, really one of the best on the album.
It’s this guitar-heavy, battle-ready riffing that gives the album a very wayward spirit about it; I could easily imagine this soundtracking a more kick-ass version of Lord of the Rings. I think this spirit somewhat replaces the aforementioned chaos of previous releases and keeps the album from having a void in its sound. I love the galloping rhythms of songs like “On The Run” that give Getaways a sense of adventure to it — making it more thematically interesting than anything the band have done before. While there are definitely some desert rock and heavy metal influences dotted about in there, The Vintage Caravan have presented a hard rock album that sets out to do exactly that — rock.
Gooduns’: Set Your Sights, Reflections, Reset
For fans of: Deep Purple, Greta Van Fleet, Graveyard