Autumn progresses, and yet another classic Finnish rock album hits. But while you’ll be well aware of HIM and The Rasmus as they assault the UK rock charts, you could be forgiven for not even having heard of Velcra. That forgiveness won’t last, however. Velcra are ace. They’re not especially fashionable – arguably they’re more than ten years late – but that doesn’t really matter. Between Force and Fate is a smack in the face from a fist that entered a time vortex in 1993 and reappeared just in time to knock the knowing noughties cynicism from our grinning faces. It’s fantastic.
Velcra do share a few attributes with their Finnish rock compatriots – they all have a flair for incredibly infectious musical hooks, they could all be accused of being more than a little derivative and they all have a sound that’s far more than the sum of their influences. That, however, is where the comparisons end. Instead of overblown 80s rock, Velcra’s heart is in early 90s rave, rap metal and political rebellion. Think Rage Against the Machine meets The Prodigy meets Faith No More meets Faithless with a dash of Bjork and Skunk Anansie and you get close. They haven’t produced a record quite as good as Fat of the Land (who has?) but it’s not far off.
Starting life as a two-piece for debut album Consequences of Disobedience, Velcra started life as guitarist/programmer O.D. (a sort-of Finnish Liam Howlett) and uber-versatile vocalist Jessi Frey. Now expanded to a full band that’s still mixing programmed beats in with the acoustic drums, they’re making music that is guaranteed to set any rock club ballistic, so long as they actually make the playlist.
Opener War Is Peace sets off in ballistic fashion, a machine-gun riff exploding into a furious tirade from Jessi Frey. The hook lines are simple but effective, “The battle has begun, counting 3-2-1 / are you ready?” she yells, and you can already hear the crowds shouting along. War is Peace feels like the tune of the year, at least until you get to Our Will Against Their Will, which is even better. Based on a speech Queen Elizabeth I gave to her troops in 1588 it combines a fantastic synth hook, a punishing sledgehammer guitar and a fantastic sense of uplifting fury to amazing effect.
By this point in the album you’ve tasted Velcra’s energy, but only just scratched the surface of their versatility, or rather that of vocalist Jessi Frey. If she’s not top of Liam Howlett’s wish-list for collaborators, she soon will be after this. Imagine a female Mike Patton, or rather a cross between Mike Patton, Keith Flint, Dido and Bjork, a singer with a multitude of completely different voices and the ability to switch between any of them in an instant.
Jessi flips from spitting vitriol, to floating over the top of a retro-rave drum’n’bass breakbeat, always sounding formidable, powerful, and incredible. Whilst their debut often slipped into Euro-rave, this album is a harder affair throughout. However its rave sensibilities mean that it’s full of calm-before-the-storm moments tailor made for Jessi’s panoply of voices.
It even gets right what so many 90’s metal/techno/rap records got wrong. Instead of using sounds and beats from dance music in a rock context, Velcra take the sounds of rock and place them with a raver’s mentality, always knowing when to ramp up and drop down, always filling the listener with energy. It works, just like Firestarter et al worked before, and since Firestarter still fills dance-floors today, there’s no reason why Velcra shouldn’t too.
Put simply, if the bands listed above hold a cherished status in your record collection, then so should this. Velcra deserve to be huge, and their anger-not-angst is more essential than ever, just in time to get all those EMO kids to stop whining and take up arms. The time to spread the word is now. Absolutely essential.