If you’re going to set out a stall for a politically charged record, you might as well kick it off with the searing bombast of ‘The Answer’ – a fierce and damning ode towards recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a confident and confrontational call to arms and that’s just the way VANT want it; suffice to say the band’s debut album ‘Dumb Blood’ starts as it means to go on. Grunge-punk flecked tunes make perfect vehicles for Mattie Vant’s social commentary and the frontman’s own critical world view. ‘Dumb Blood’ rolls out more like a set list from one of the quartet’s live shows rather than an album tracklisting. There’s peaks and troughs of sonic intensity but also newer tracks like ‘Put Down Your Gun’ and ‘Lampoon’ that are evenly dispersed amongst the VANT classics-in-waiting; the likes of ‘Parasite’, ‘Parking Lot’ and ‘Do You Know Me?’ expertly positioned to raise the tempo but to also add a dash of familiarity to those that are already well acquainted with VANT’s high energy gigs. The real curve ball comes in the shape of ‘Are We Free?’s sprawling, languid 7-minute opus. Prior to this meandering epic ‘Dumb Blood’ is all quick fire 3-minute charging beasts.
If ever there was a time to speak out about political turmoil and widespread social apathy – it’s now. Given the appointment of Donald Trump as US President (Make America Hate again anyone?), Britain’s death slide into Brexit and Europe’s far-right up rising ‘Dumb Blood’ takes all the anger, frustration and bewilderment created by these fucked up scenarios and fires it right back in the face of hate and turmoil. ‘Dumb Blood’s messages comes across loud and clear because it doesn’t attempt to hide its opinions via clever metaphors or symbolism nor does the album patronise its listener by dumbing things down. VANT have kept things simple and by doing so Mattie’s lyrics grab you on the first listen. ‘Put Down Your Gun’ points the finger at America’s toxic relationship with firearms as well as delving into the climate of fear stupidly created around people that are ‘different’ “we’re still shocked by being black or gay” and “stop living in fear/put down your gun” illustrate this perfectly. An apathetic generation is the next target on ‘Lampoon’ “everything is wrong with this generation/everything is dumb with this generation” screams Mattie over walls of fierce punky guitars and clattering drums. You can just picture the subject of his disdain vacantly swiping through their endless Snapchat filters like braindead drones.
Despite VANT’s ire towards current affairs, a sliver of optimism can be found throughout ‘Dumb Blood’ albeit juxtaposed with stark realism that if we carry on the way we are – we’re fucked. Recent single ‘Peace and Love’ reaches some heady anthemic heights whilst stating how important these two things are. Although Mattie will reflect at the song’s finale that “now that peace and love have no meaning”. If you’re going to kick the political hornet’s nest and stoke the flames of a listless generation, you might as well wade into the contentious topic of religion as well. ‘I Don’t Believe in God’ is a pace charger, opting for a less bombastic beginning but this is remedied once the track explodes towards it’s fiery climax. Lyrically, at the start it’s a little clunky with Mattie detailing everyone has a vice – be it sex, drugs, alcohol or worshipping a higher being. There’s a strangely, triumphant feel to the track – it’s as if Mattie is provoking the listener to believe in themselves instead of looking for hope and reassurance it something that might not exist. Equally, Mattie’s fondness for mother nature comes through in the choice lyric of “I see it as beauty that we rot in the ground/our molecules mate and create a new sound”. However, where there’s belief in a better time there’s also pessimism that can drag us down; final track ‘Time and Money’s hook line ‘tick tock time bomb/all hope is gone” could be Donald Trump’s next campaign slogan?!
VANT’s debut record is definitely no dumb-arse; it’s an opinionated firebrand screaming to be heard. It’s down to all of us to listen.
review by Adam Williams