Heavy metal has lost its outcast status as well as any lingering trace of menace and is now no more or less than a stylistic choice — even for a power trio from Iceland, the Vintage Caravan. I got tipped they were good and so checked out their debut, Voyage, on the reliable Nuclear Blast label. Standard metal questions now include:
How’s the guitar tone, riffs, solos?
Lively, engaged — Oskar Logi Agustsson is not a groundbreaker, but he has graceful affinity for the form and does a minimum of recycle by today’s standards.
Does the drummer rock?
Yes. Guojon Reynisson is the proverbial secret weapon.
Does the bass have enough of a role?
No. Alexander Orn Numason is plenty talented, but disappears in the mix. An almost universal metal shortcoming.
So, as a sound I get my jollies from Vintage Caravan.
But then you have to ask about the songwriting …
Oh, I don’t ask much anymore. The all-too-common problem is that a couple slower tracks are there for variety and they are standout weak. “Do You Remember” is downright discombobulating: “Do you remember/When we used to listen/To Simon and Garfunkle/In the night/In your hometown” — Ack! What? That’s a bridge over untroubled water too far.