I had the pleasure of watching THE VINTAGE CARAVAN live at last year’s Fuzztastic Planet Festival and right away I could feel they are one of those bands that A) are obviously above “just good” B) have the aura of the rock ‘n’ roll entertainer around them. When I learned that they are the same age as I (20 at that time), my jaw dropped to the floor majestically. Finding out that they’ve been working on their material since elementary school, it made sense to me that 10 years of hard practice would lead to something as great as “Arrival”.
Don’t be fooled by their young of age though, since the Icelandic trio already has two more full length albums in its baggage, so words like “promising” are not going to be used here, since it is apparent they’ve left that stage long ago and have grown to be a full blown kick ass heavy/fuzzy blues rock band. Testament to these words is the opening trio of songs (Last Day of Light, Monolith, and Babylon) which could be described as the party starter, as well as a great insight to their influences.
First of all they are not afraid to hit the gas pedal and second they are not afraid to cram up many ideas into one song, making their tracks as much fun as multilayered. So, what you get is a mixture of 70’s fuzzy, hard hitting rock like LED ZEPPELIN or “In Rock” era DEEP PURPLE with distinct (yet not overpowering) prog elements deriving probably from the mighty RUSH that lead guitarist and vocalist Oskar Agustsson has noted as an influence since a very young age. Perhaps this is why you will find some quite bold choices of vocal lines planted sparsely in “Arrival”.
Since they live inside the spirit of 00’s-10’s revival of heavy/blues/psychedelic rock, their own rough rock ‘n’ roll style mixed with those vintage (no pun intended) elements and a great, great bulky production, the end results sound like a glorious meeting of QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE/RED FANG with GRAVEYARD and WITCHCRAFT, plus that progressive pinch mentioned above. Though it ranges close to an hour of music, “Arrival” did not make me bored even once, and I think this is largely due to the versatility they show in each song. I mean of course you will get the occasional beer brawler moments like “Crazy Horses”, simple, striking and effective, but almost every song will have one or more turns and changes that will take you by surprise.
Proto-doom riffs will go hand in hand with funky rock (“Eclipsed”), the Woodstock style tambourine that I admire in BLUES PILLS will also be ever-present, early era MOTORHEAD might pass by the studio and say “hello!” during the hard hitting speedy sections and when you crave for a melodic break, here comes the best song they’ve written so far, “Innerverse” a melancholic blues masterpiece with a JETHRO TULL explosion and a wonderful sentimental solo as its peak. “Promising” you said? Suck on this! The album will end with the ultimate proof that they are great at orchestrating their songs and of course I’m talking about the magnificent “Winter Queen”. I dare you to listen to the refrain and not sing it in your head for the next hour (or day) over and over again.
So, to wrap this up, “Arrival” has exceeded any of my personal expectations and it is a worthy –if not better- follow up to “Voyage”. With their special approach on the vintage rock sound, THE VINTAGE CARAVAN glide their way into the pantheon of amazing bands Iceland has gifted us the last two decades, and hopefully into the hearts of anyone who loves and supports this music. I sincerely wish their career just keeps heading upwards.
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