Song of Zarathustra
The Birth of Tragedy
The setting: Some hardcore show somewhere in middle-America
The time: Between the sets of the opening band and the headliners
The characters: myself and this other kid that I met at the show
Me: Man, that opening band was terrible. How many more of these steakhead, tough-guy metalcore bands do we really need? The fact a lot of the kids won’t take your band seriously unless you show off how masculine you are kinda frightens me. I mean, I thought it was kind of understood that if you’re in a hardcore band in the first place, you’re “masculine” enough. What’s with the posturing?
Other Kid: Chill out, man. At least the next band playing isn’t full of Hatebreed wannabes.
Me: Better not be.
Other Kid: Yeah, don’t sweat it. They’re called The VSS.
Me: Wow, you mean the San Diego band that has the guy who used to sing for that band Angel Hair? Strange. I thought they broke up a long time ago.
Other Kid: Broken up? No way! They’re playing here in like ten minutes. In fact, they even released a new album.
Me: You’ve got to be kidding me...are you serious?
Other Kid: Yeah, it’s called The Birth of Tragedy. It kicks ass. I just bought it the other day.
Me: Okay, then. So, what does it sound like?
Other Kid: For the most part, it’s the same old VSS that you and I have come to know and love. “Mess of Zero” kicks the album off with some massive riffage that the band is already known for. Sonny sounds more furious than ever on this track; if the vocals in and of themselves don’t indicate that, then lyrics such as “Something said stop. We’ll move when the head nods and fuck all who may stand and watch” certainly do. The keyboards sound more evil here than they have on any VSS song to date. You can feel the nihilism pouring out of every orifice as you listen to this song. If Dracula was a hardcore kid, this is a song he would definitely be rocking out to.
Me: You mean while he’s not busy licking blood off the dance floor?
Other Kid: Yeah, something like that. A lot of the songs on The Birth of Tragedy simply do what The VSS do best: rock your ass off. Like the “The Deep Yellow and The Burning Red”. Here, the guys throw around some Drive Like Jehu stylings while still maintaining the classic VSS style. Of course, the ever-present keyboards add a presence to this song that simply...
Other Kid: Actually, “sinister” was the word I had in mind, but “evil” works just the same. But yeah, the really cool thing about this new VSS album is how it strikes the perfect match between style and substance. You’ve got the incessant screaming and rocking on one hand and you’ve got the sensitivity added by the keyboards and the whole demented quasi-gothic hardcore image on the other. These guys have it down pat.
Me (confused, and a bit disturbed): Eh...keyboards in hardcore are nothing new. Before, The VSS just used electronics as another instrument, just like a guitar. Why did they feel the need make their keyboards all gimmicky and “evil” all of a sudden? Never mind that, what I really want to know is this: what’s the deal with all this “gothic” crap? Goth is the opposite of hardcore. It’s pretentious, boring, and completely lacking in energy. It’s everything that hardcore is not and should not be.
Other Kid: Hold up! You’re starting to sound like one of those “steakheads” you were ripping on earlier. Anyway, to answer your question: maybe “gothic” was the wrong word to use, but there’s certainly some of the same mindset present between goths and The VSS, at least on this new album. The atmospheric intro and outro, complete with operatic female vocals suggest as much. So does the title track. The VSS can throw as many power chords and rapid-fire beats at us as they want – it doesn’t change the fact that they have exposed themselves as the sensitive guys that they really are.
Me: Okay, so the album rocks and is sensitive, too. Are you saying that The VSS has gone emo?
Other Kid: Sure. They’re emo in sense that bands like Heroin, Angel Hair and Antioch Arrow were emo. This album is raw in every sense of the word. It’s got raw music, raw sensitivity, raw-as-hell vocals, and raw lyrics. Nothing here is watered-down, so don’t worry about that. If the song “The Stillest Hour” doesn’t convince you of that, nothing will. The music in that song heavy-as-hell and brief; the vocals are some of the fiercest I’ve heard in a while.
Me: From the sound of it, that seems like a good description for the album as a whole. A short and sweet San Diego deal, huh? In my opinion, that sort of deal would make the atmospheric interludes seem out of pla—
Other Kid: Shut up dude, The VSS is coming on!
Lead Singer of Band: Hey kids, what’s going on? We are Song of Zarathustra from Minneapolis, MN!
Me: SONG OF ZARATHUSTRA?! You told me this band and album was The VSS?
Everyone else at the show: Eh, same difference.
Reviewed by: Nnamdi Ezeife
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01