Go for the Strange
Take a ride aboard Victor Sierra's excellent third album.
From the moment Victor Sierra’s Go for the Strange kicked off, I knew I was in for an atmospheric experience. The third album album by the French steampunk band wastes no time, its lead track “Unquiet Days” launching us into a relatable world torn asunder by political division. Harmonica cuts through atop a clanking, dread-inducing industrial beat as vocalists Commander Bob and Anouk admonish those that “love to hate”.
We surge ahead with the tense tale “The Fall of the Airship Solitaria”, a four-on-the-floor kick carrying us along with Bob, Anouk, and keyboardist/programmer Big Machine as their characters desperately try to escape a squadron of Prussian fighters. Anouk’s unique voice really serves the song’s hook.
The songs speak often of bleak worlds in search of hope. “Angels Roll out the Night” takes us down a downtrodden boulevard whose denizens face an uncertain future, sowing the seeds of revolution. Dirty guitar and a pounding beat lead us into the catchy “All Quiet on the Othman Front”, its theme the frustration of pawns under the boots of the powerful. “You know who make the rules / Everybody knows these deals are cut for fools.”
“El Calor” (“The Heat”) is torn straight from the south of Spain, an energetic Moorish feel concocted by Anouk’s Spanish language vocals layered with North African percussion and strings, liberally punctuated with synthesizers. A fantastic song full of dark imagery, I can easily see this being a favorite of belly dancers.
The rousing march “The Shadow Company” urges the listener to leave their comfort zone, to seize the initiative rather than be restrained by imaginary walls. Its chorus is home to one of my favorite lines on the entire album: “Borders are just made to be crossed.” If the band hasn’t put that on a T-shirt, they should. That motivational theme continues in the slower “El Mundo Superior”, the striking of zils welcoming back the Arabic-Spanish palette.
Paris-based Victor Sierra’s interesting lyrical word choice or phrasing makes it clear at times that English and Spanish are second languages to them, but it doesn’t diminish the impact of their songs at all. I find it adds to the worldly feel of the album. For instance, “The X-Mas Case” deftly skewers the consumerist monstrosity that Christmas has become. We do get excellent French songs in “Atlantis”, a high energy electronic track, where acoustic flamenco-styled guitar adds an air of intrigue, and the more somber “Ostende”.
Compared to the rest of the songs, “Dark Passenger” is the only one that fell a bit flat to me. It’s not a bad song, but it doesn’t have the character and strength of the other tracks. Also, whenever I hear the term “dark passenger”, I immediately think of the Dexter series.
The album closes out with a swaggering ode to survival, "Long Life to the Hydrogen Queen". It's a grand airship pirates-on-the-run track, as the band presses on amid a world aflame. While the album must end, it seems to say, the adventure is nowhere near done.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was a backer for the album’s Kickstarter. I’ve listened to the band’s work for many years and have always enjoyed their music. That said, there have been times where I’ve pitched in to support other familiar bands and the end results have been disappointing, which is always a risk when you’re buying something “sight unseen”.
That’s certainly not the case here. Go for the Strange is Victor Sierra’s best album to date, a sprawling, beautifully produced album that has something to say about the world. Crafted in many languages, both lyrically and musically, it speaks singularly in Victor Sierra’s unique and powerful voice. Climb on aboard the Hydrogen Queen and experience Victor Sierra's world.
For fans of: KMFDM, Juno Reactor, Abney Park