The Vintage Caravan – Monuments: Album Review

The Vintage Caravan revive their retro rock template for another outing.

Release date: 16th April 2021

Label: Napalm Records

Format: CD / DL / Vinyl

A band we know well and who have worn their musical hearts on their sleeves. Theirs is an unabashed dedication to the Seventies which is fine by us. The Vintage Caravan has established a sound that combines rock, blues, psychedelic and progressive threads. Exactly what the trio have made their stock in trade.

Monuments, their fifth album, finds them resisting any strong temptation to waver from what works well for them. Their press and media people may urge them (and us) to believe in a new diversity. However, let’s not kid around in knowing just what guitar-driven, blues-rock-drenched, sonic gems they’re going to deliver.

For starters, they toy with us in Whispers. There may be hints at a softer side with the title, but there’s a refreshing lack of subtlety about the onslaught that’s heralded by some space rock sonics and a thundering undercurrent. The only (and continued) surprise is the dense power that the trio continue to muster. Crystallized showcases a pumping riff and highly listenable melody in the “eyes of the storm” vocal line. A vocal that’s easy on the ear and provides the thread of calmness through an album that pulls no punches musically. Next up, Crystallized may be influenced by the Sci-Fi shenanigans of Blue Oyster Cult with the bolt-on of a freak-out guitar break while Can’t Get You Off My Mind brings some radio friendliness to the opening trio.

In fact, the latter thought is one that resurfaces on several occasions. On Hell, in particular, thoughts of the chops of BOC and a friendly and melodic Tobias Forge vocal are unavoidable. That combination of tripping out, intense musicality topped with a lyric delivered with ease and confidence and doesn’t need to be forced. Perhaps we should be looking beyond the obvious. We have a welcome absence cock rocking, blues wailing and heavy metal shrieking expectations that often come with the retro tag.

Some respite comes in what’s essentially a love song. Key lines such as “all I can do is think of you, with kindness and love” on This One’s For You are carried on floating guitar accompaniment and a whisper of percussion. Don’t even entertain any thoughts that we’re suddenly going to burst into life, as the pace (and volume) actually slows briefly. By contrast, a Maiden-style gallop (driven by the guitar-bass-trio rather than three guitars…) is a feature of the chance to let loose on Forgotten. Again, marvel how three instruments can convey such drama.

Above all, some monster riffing is back to the fore on the final lap. Torn In Two, Sharp Teeth and Said Done, are quintessential Heavy Rock. The latter has a Sabbath-y jerky singsong delivery alongside what seems a basic (but probably far from it) repetitive groove. The soft plod and atmospheric aura of album closer Clarity, reinforces some calm on the 60-minute journey through the latest vintage offering.

You know that diversity we mentioned earlier? Hold the thought. Strange as it seems, after a few trips with the newest Caravan, there may well be some truth in that claim. Monuments has enough classic Vintage Caravan together with new doorways left ajar.

Here’s Whispers from the album:

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