It isn’t outside the realm of sense of dub The Von a progressive pop band. First, let’s lay out a definition for progressive. Rock and roll initially developed from the blues and, despite its subsequent metamorphosis, the genre in its purest form covers a relatively paltry amount of musical and thematic ground. Formulas dominate. Progressive, on the other hand, denotes an artist or band’s willingness to smash or otherwise subvert those forms. If you accept the preceding sentence as a credible view, The Von fits that well. The eight songs on their debut release Ei8ht take surprising turns, sudden shifts, and challenge our ideas on what constitutes a pop song. It’s a wider tent than perhaps you imagine. The band’s songwriting blends razor sharp and often orchestral-styled guitar playing with riffs, blistering solos, and dissonant lead work. They further add a wash of electronica sounds, more often than not synthesizers, but their presence never sounds forced or overwrought. The final ingredient is strong multi-part harmonies accented by overall stellar production work.
Many of the songs take a mid-tempo approach emphasizing dynamics and composition. The Von, like many classic acts before them, usually aims for the slow build. Their songwriting and performing impact is a process of accretion. The swirl of disparate elements disguises structurally sound arrangements that hit all of the expected marks. The opening duo of “Nothing to Fear” and “The Machine” are The Von’s odes about individual sanctity in a world unable to prize such concepts. The band’s musical attack provokes a lot of chemistry – specifically, the instrumental break on the first track, “Nothing to Fear”, serves notice that listeners are dealing with a wild card. Guitarist Marek Schneider confounds your expectations by spilling color instead of fire from his fret board, but his chiming notes nevertheless approximate, in some ways, the energy promised in much more conventional solos. The latter song, “The Machine”, will sound familiar to many as it depicts the vast, dehumanizing force attempting to oppress those like the opener’s narrator.
The band slows things down further for later cuts like “Atomic Sun” and “Let It Out” with different intents. “Atomic Sun” is an imaginative and surprisingly poetic track. It’s likely one of the more original love song lyrics in recent memory and vocalist Luis Bonilla, one half of the trio’s rhythm section as well, gives listeners a sincere, show stopping vocal. “Let It Out” finds The Von indulging a bit more with crunchy guitars and hard rock textures, but whereas lesser bands might lapse into a mindless stomp, “Let It Out” will jolt you throughout its entirety. The uptempo numbers peak with the hard-charging fury in “Cry of War” and the album’s penultimate track, “Don’t Forget About Us”. The latter tempers the tempo more than the former, but it crackles with urgency and even a little desperate despite its comparatively muted bounce. The album’s title track closes things with an impressive constructed song compromised of different movements that, perhaps, betrays some of the band’s classic rock influences. The Von’s debut effort is astonishingly developed for a first time album, but few bands possess their innate skill.