ReVamp – Wild Card
ReVamp – Wild Card (2013)
Reviewed by Allyson Kenning
I have to admit that I was never a huge Floor Jansen fan until last fall, when she joined up with Nightwish as their fill-in singer. I never could get into After Forever and Floor’s voice always seemed a bit to sharp for my tastes. But once she starting singing Nightwish material, something clicked for me and all of a sudden I found myself liking her a lot. Not enough to like After Forever all of a sudden, but I had a newfound respect for her. I also never really paid much attention to ReVamp’s debut album, which came out a couple of years ago, mainly because of my feelings about Floor’s previous band. However, times change and people change, and ReVamp has a new album out, entitled Wild Card, and I can honestly say, I love it, I love Floor in it, and I am now a new ReVamp fan.
One of the reasons I love this album is that it is thematic, and I do love me a thematic album when done right. The theme is pretty clear when you take a look at the track listing, which has three songs entitled “The Anatomy of a Nervous Breakdown”; the first part of this trio is “On the Sideline”, the second is “The Limbic System”, and the last is “Neurasthenia.” These three songs form the framework of the story about the descent into the very dark side of the self – a nervous breakdown. In a recent interview, Floor did admit to being extremely sick from burn out for about a year and a half, so the lyrics in this album are very personal for her.
The first song, “The Anatomy of a Nervous Breakdown: On the Sideline”, introduces the listener to a character – Floor – who is about to lose control of everything. It describes very vividly the detachment that comes with depression and the desire to flee from reality because reality is just too hard to take right now. The second song, probably the darkest on the album, “The Anatomy of a Nervous Breakdown: The Limbic System”, is about the complete loss of control and that fall into internal chaos and despair. Here is an example:
Open nerves, they’re killing me.
My mind explodes; it’s burning up and scaring me.
Nothing feels the same.
As it shuts me down. A signal I can’t defy.
They’re showing me the truth by force. My body’s completely drained.
And primitive emotions can thrive. Goodbye ‘control’. Goodbye illusion…
It’s very raw stuff indeed, and the sheer power of the concept that Floor’s exploring here really engaged me in the album on a highly emotional level. At times, it was an overwhelming listen because of its subject matter.
The title track, “Wildcard,” continues the journey through these dark corners of the mind, and it’s one of the strongest pieces on the album. My reading of it is that it’s about the mask one wears to keep up the facade of sanity, while underneath the soul is roiling with bleakness. It pairs well with the rather strong imagery contained on the album cover, which depicts this dichotomy rather effectively.
I found that listening to this album was like watching a well-crafted, depressing, but excellently acted film about a sympathetic character’s descent into madness, but without any Hollywood ending to be found. All the songs describe physical and mental pain with a poignancy and brutality that made me want to flinch. The final song (before the bonus track), “Wolf and Dog”, again explores the dichotomy of self – the exterior versus the interior – and does offer a small flicker of hope with the line “But keep the door open for I will come home.” More prominently, however, it offers relief from pain via an exhaustion-induced sleep.
Musically, this is a punishing album to listen to because of its speed, darkness, and complexity, and I can imagine that it’s a very punishing album to perform as well for all band members involved, particularly the drummer. I don’t always pay attention to drumming, but in this case it’s hard not to because of the constant pounding in the background. The drums are the force behind the aggression in this album. The bombast never lets up, even in songs like “Distorted Lullabies”, which lulls you into thinking you might get something sweeter-sounding, but really ends up kicking your ass just like all the other songs on the album do.
Vocally, Floor is nothing short of magnificent – really. She is very versatile, singing mainly in an aggressive rock style, peppered here and there with her lyric soprano classical style, and, surprisingly, she even does a few growls, which I enjoyed hearing from her. Is there nothing this woman can’t do?
There are some prominent guest musicians on this album. First and foremost, Floor does a duet with Devin Townsend in “The Anatomy Of A Nervous Breakdown: Neurasthenia”, where he plays a kind of the “devil” inside of her. Also, there are some nice choir arrangements on this album, and Marcela Bovio of Stream Of Passion makes an appearance. The studio bassist for ReVamp on this release is also from Stream Of Passion, Johan Van Stratum, and Epica’s Mark Jansen does the growls on track 10, “Misery’s No Crime.”
Wildcard really touched me in a lot of ways and contained so many things I love about great music: engaging theme, fantastic and fast-paced music, excellent vocals, and emotional and musical complexity. Definitely worth checking out, and if you weren’t a ReVamp fan before, perhaps this album will make you one. I know it made me one.
4.0 // 5