I’m about to use a phrase I hate. But sometimes you have to hold your nose and get on with it.
So here we go: “under the radar.”
And the reason I’m resorting to clichés? Vega.
You see, Vega (and if we may call them Worcestershire’s finest, seeing as how I’m a proud Midlander myself, that’d be lovely) should be massive. Like seriously big.
But we are where we are, and “Battlelines” will get loads of praise, and Vega will probably never sell out the NEC – however much they deserve to.
Album number eight is just like the other seven in that it is superb; the opener “Heroes And Zeros” will tell you that. But it also tells you why I’ve always believed that the band is the victim of lazy reviews. “AOR,” “Bon Jovi,” “80s Rock.” You seldom see the band reviewed without those epithets somewhere (and I’ve probably done it myself), but it’s not quite true (or indeed fair).
Rather, there’s the air of the grandiose about this. And thus about them. It’s not power metal, but neither is it FM.
And that extends to the lyrics. “Killers” underlines this. They mean something. “Every single day we’re willing to die” offers singer Nick Workman by way of a hook, and at the very least, it sets them apart.
Even when things do get a little Def Leppard, as it were on the title track, the two-guitar attack (ex-Inglorious man Billy Taylor is still a welcome addition) gives it a tough edge.
Taylor and long-standing member Marcus Thurston (one of two founders left) have meshed so well, and when that’s augmented with the production skill of drummer Pete Newdeck, it makes “Love To Hate You” a real standout.
This is a slightly heavier Vega than before, I’d wager, and “Don’t Let Them See You Bleed” soars, and sounds incredibly modern, while there’s a big old swagger to the bass of Mart Trail on “Embrace The Grey.”
More than anything, though, these are the same kids I was, growing up in the thrall of music. “33s and 45s” doesn’t get written in any way else. “Everyone needs to feel something,” it goes, and what they feel comes from the music, still.
Everywhere you look, there’s a highlight. “Into The Fire” is the product of someone who grew up in the 80s; “Run With Me” is the sound of that person wanting to reach for new horizons, and that’s the point here. Any Jeff Scott Soto fans need to get here quickly.
The band can, seemingly at will, write massive-sounding stuff. “Not Enough” is the sort of thing that loads of bands on the Frontiers label do (they share the Italian stable), but there are not many doing it this well.
Even fewer are making music like “God Save The King,” which hides its vitriol behind harmonies and arena rock. “They drink then take a piss in your well” – and, of course, their mum is usually on hand to hand out 12m if anyone needs paying off.
And there’s time for one last slice of class. “Gotta Be You” is hopefully destined for the live set, and hopefully, the crowds will be big.
Vega is a wonderful band, whether live or on record, but “Battlelines” is the one, maybe, where they’ve revealed more of themselves than ever before.
15 years in, and they’ve come of age perhaps?