Apologies, it’s a bit of a late “Arrival” for this album as far as we are concerned (it must have been stuck in the slow lane eh, Top Gear fans?). “Arrival” has been out for a while on Nuclear Blast and I’ve been meaning to check it out since I saw them on the bill at DesertFest. It’s the third album from this Icelandic trio, who are still barely out of their teens, and as The Vintage Caravan they deal in a youthfully exuberant version of ’70’s hard rock that it’s fair to say even their parents may have found desperately un-hip. These hairy young dudes must have old souls, as by this point they already sound like seasoned pros, although there is a gaucheness to the lyrics at times that does kind of give the game away.
It all starts very promisingly with ‘Last Light of Day’, a big rumble of drums, some fleet footed rhythms leading into a stratospheric guitar workout that mixes the blues crunch of Royal Blood with the epic tones of Mono. When the vocals kick in something odd happens though; vocalist Oskar Logi reminds me of James Dean Bradfield, with a similar style in his phrasing, and the ballsy classic rock power of the chorus could almost be from “Gold Against The Soul”-era Manic Street Preachers – not at all what I was expecting from these very traditional, heritage rock enthusiasts. I then spend the next few listens searching for more similarities with the Welsh veterans. You don’t have to try very hard on next track ‘Monolith’, which again could easily be the Manics at their most straight forwardly rockist.
The rest of the album rests more comfortably in the bluesy, proggy pigeon-hole you’d expect and mostly goes by in a blur of rather predictably structured songs called things like ‘Crazy Horses’ (not The Osmonds song, sadly). The performances are fine throughout, with Oskar Logi regularly pulling out huge solos and massive city flattening riffs (‘Eclipsed’). It’s just not quite gripping enough; I find I stop listening after the swaggering ‘Shaken Beliefs’ and it’s not till the closing pomp of ‘Winter Queen’ that the band step out of their comfort zone and deliver something more dramatic and ambitious. With an opening riff so urgent the Icelandic police could use it as a siren it is a series of thunderous, almost operatic crescendos, leavened by sweetly sung bridge parts of real melodic power. And yes, it sounds like the Manic Street Preachers again, this time through a Muse-like Wagnerian filter. This one’s the real keeper on the album. The rest I can take or leave whatever time it arrives.