One Album Wonders: V.A.N.


The following entry originally appeared on the Amoeblog

V.A.N. – Out in the Rain (1992)

V.A.N. were a short-lived “melodic hard rock” band from Germany who released just one album in 1992, Out of the Rain. I have no idea what the acronym “V.A.N.” stands for. It’s not derived by the names of the band’s members, who were guitaris Frank Elwart, keyboardist and guitarist Helge Engelke, vocalist Jens Reulecke, drummer Kalle Bosel, or bassist Ralf DittrickVereinigung Akustikus Neurinom? I’ve no idea.

V.A.N. - Out in the Rain

Anyway, of the members of V.A.N., Engelke appears to have had the most previous professional experience having played in the bands Letter X and Zeno. He was born in Hanover in 1961 and began playing guitar at thirteen. In interviews he’s mentioned that bands he liked included Deep Purple, Genesis, Led Zeppelin,Mott the Hoople, T. Rex, Yes — but that his favorite of all-time is, revealingly, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.

1992 was a critical year in music. In 1991, My Bloody Valentine‘s Loveless had pretty much found the limits of what good be done with guitar rock whilst the surprise popularity Nirvana‘s Nevermind sounded the death knell for the sort of pop metal balladry which had previously soundtracked many a rural American prom. Alternative music, albeit a masculinized, dudebro version, soon took control of American airwaves. Sebastian Bach, pretty boy singer of hair metalers Skid Row, cried “they [Alternative bands] took over MTV and it’s like Revenge of the Nerds!”

V.A.N. - Out In the Rain

Meanwhile, bands like hair metalers like Poison, and Warrant hardly went grunge but did trade their spandex costumes for leather and denim and grabbed some wooden stools on which to perform new songs devoid of endless guitar solos and gated drums. A hunkered down Bon Jovi released the tellingly Keep the Faith — its cover depicted the members hands joined together in gritty black and white solidarity. Jon Bon Jovi’s decision to cut his Samson-with-highlights perm actually received coverage on pretend news station CNN.

At the same time, it wasn’t as if the old guard were all forcibly removed from music. Despite the hype about grunge (and in the UK, rave), bands like Mr. Big and Aerosmith could still fill 12,500 capacity Wembley Arena. There were still plenty of chart-topping releases by the likes Coverdale•PageGuns ‘n’ RosesKissOzzy Osbourne, Saigon Kick, Slaughter, and Def Leppard who seemed content to carry on as if either blissfully unaware or as if grunge and increasingly commercialized alternative were nothing but minor annoyances and not the seachange they proved to be.Although V.A.N. had a song called “Rock ‘N Roll Is Back Again” I doubt (without having listened to it) that it was an acknowledgment of the rise of grunge or shoegaze any more than “Yo, Yo, Yo,” was a nod toto hip-hop. This was a band, after all, with the necessary naivety (or perhaps simply Germanness) to write a song called “We Are the Leppards.” I’m not sure if “Out in the Rain” was released as a single, but here it is for your consideration in all of its hugely produced, blindingly polished glory:

Ultimately the sort of music made by V.A.N. and their ilk did prove to be on its way out, however, and at Pamidas across the Plains and Middle West, Trixter posters were marked down to clearance to make room for those featuring bands like new hair bands like Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. V.A.N. went their separate ways. Bosel joined another melodic hard rock act, Askari. Engelke went on to play in Fair Warning, Dreamtide and with Lana Lane. Discouraged metalheads everywhere took to BBSs to let it be known that heavy metal would one day return!

*****

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in AmoeblogdiaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art MuseumForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County StoreSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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