The Von – EI8HT
The long awaited full length debut of South Florida electro/rock trio The Von followed the release of a series of well received singles. The resulting buzz for the band has led to growing demand and their live schedule is only increasing. The band’s main movers are vocalist/bassist Luis Bonilla and guitarist Marek Schneider, but this is far from a guitar-centric unit. Bonilla and Schneider make free use of electronic instruments to further flesh out their compositions, but rather than distracting listeners or detracting from the quality, their inclusion enriches the musical experience. Bonilla is an exceptional vocalist as well and the power of his voice on certain song has a peel the paint off the walls quality capable of rousing even the most cynical listeners.
“Nothing to Fear” is one of the early singles preceding the album’s debut and its position as the opener is justified. The tone behind much of The Von’s lyrical content is, essentially, quite positive and extols the human spirit as sacrosanct. Schneider illustrates his distinctiveness as a player with an orchestral-minded guitar solo near the song’s conclusion. “The Machine” shares musical and lyrical ground with the album’s first song. The lyrical difference lies with its point of view that sees modern life’s faceless, soul-crushing structures as the human spirit’s greatest threat, but while it takes on a similar tempo, the guitar concerns itself much more with beefy chord progressions and bringing a much more physical presence to the song consummate with its meaning.
“Love Supreme” is one of the album’s best examples of The Von’s simplified approach. The electro aspects fall away and, instead, The Von zeroes in on evocative guitar textures and a streamlined presentation. They excel on “Atomic Sun”, a slowly paced love song of sorts with memorable imagery bordering on the poetic. Bonilla really throws himself into this one. The Von is working squarely in a rock mode on “Let It Out” though they quickly jettison the opening’s heavy guitar in favor of softer, tension-filled verses with Schneider’s guitar occasionally diving in from above. The music of “Don’t Forget About Us” embodies the desperate and urgency of its title. The guitar work sounds tense, worked up, and the percussion keeps pushing throughout. Bonilla’s voice has the same desperate edge.
The album concludes with the title song. “Ei8ht” is the album’s most expansive cut and The Von takes this curtain call as an opportunity to build on their strengths. Introducing the song with acoustic guitar and aching, plaintive vocals is an audacious move in light of what preceded it, but the band makes it work and eventually expands into a widescreen, full-band arrangement that beautifully contrasts it. It’s the last magnificent note to a wildly creative debut. The Von can play things straight and deliver an entertaining blast of rock and roll, but they thankfully can’t resist overturning our apple carts with jolting twists and unexpected turns. Ei8ht is one of the year’s most memorable debuts thus far.
9 out of 10 stars.