You know, I don’t always have to really be a huge fan of an artist to agree with them. For instance, Lars Ulrich said that this is “one of the greatest debut albums [he's] heard in a long time”. In spite that I’m a fairweather Metallica fan and I don’t care for his ego, I must say that is almost what I think. But I’d modify that: This is the greatest debut album I’ve heard from ANY artist. And this also happens to be my favorite artist of all-time and there’s so many reason why. It gets compared to NIN because that’s the closest thing in the mainstream that people can compare it to, even though it sounds nothing like that. It kind of reminds me of what Trent did a year later though on “The Fragile”, considering the classical influence on that album that is somewhat evident here. While Jon Crosby uses samples, they aren’t those that are relied on, they are just really added elements to the song. Also, the music here is a good combination of acoustic and electric guitar and the electronics give it a great feeling. There are really just way too many things to say about “Visual Audio Sensory Theater”.
You may have not heard VAST directly, but I’m sure that if you’ve watched the TV series “Angel” that you have. Four songs from this album were used for that show. While I never watched much of it, it did give me interest.
It all starts out with the orchestration of the first track, “Here”, which goes out with muffled strings in its guitar refrain. I love Jon’s voice and he sounds young yet sophisticated in the verses. It is a great song to introduce someone to this artist of, by the way.
The most popular song on this album is definitely “Touched”. The sample of “Pilentze-Pe” or whatever it is called makes it really earthly, a quality that makes VAST so great. The track uses acoustic guitar in the intro and first verse. Jon’s voice is really great on this particular song and the bridge makes the song as well.
It’s certainly a lot easier to get into than some other songs on the album. For instance, while there is a lot of passion in Jon’s vocals, “Dirty Hole” may turn off some people in first listen, as sometimes it gets overpowering for people. But I absolutely love the organs on this song and the melody is great. It’s a great song that is also nice to listen to when angry or something.
Then dark synths come in on the electronic “Pretty When You Cry”. The first single from the album, it had an interesting video for it and is quite clever although at the same time a bit disturbing. It’s probably my least favorite song on the record but mostly because it doesn’t fit with the album’s context as well as the others.
Then you get to the monk-style chanting in the song personally addressed to Jesus, “I’m Dying”. Once again, Jon has a lot of passion in his vocals, on this one especially in the chorus. The atomsphere of the song just really enhances what it is. The outro’s got a great classical influence.
Then you get into the truly mellow territory with the cello-laden “Flames”. A great song to sleep or chill out by and not one of the more overpowering tracks for people. One of just many great songs here.
But you haven’t even gotten to the greatest part from there on. “Temptation” shows some of Jon’s excellent lyrics and also has some of the greatest melodies of the record (saying a lot). Another sample by the same people heard on “Touched”. The dark feel to this song is great. I like how it is relatively quiet in verses yet real heavy and dark in the bridge and chorus.
You get some Middle-Eastern influence of “Three Doors”, which also shows Jon’s young vocals (he was 21 at the time by the way) in a great way. I believe it’s a spiritual track as are some others here, another track worth repeating. The bridge reminds me of something the Cure would do.
“The Nile’s Edge” continues that earthly feel and kind of builds up as it goes on. Jon’s voice proves to be unique here and it is one track on here you will find yourself repeating, leading into somewhat similar territory in “Somewhere Else to Be”. More monk chants on this one and a great track that is relatively mellow yet angsty. That leads into the segue/transitional track which uses the same chant and has somewhat similar instrumentation.
Then it gets into a more keyboard-based electronic track in “You”, another sign that it was a great debut album. Even when Crosby’s lyrics are trite like in “Your eyes look like they’re from God”, it just sounds great, especially when you get into the chorus.
Sure, it may take some longer to get into it, but for those who don’t like VAST, they are severely missing out. 12 tracks of pure aural bliss that can be described as “orgasmic” in a single word and while the new age and classical influences are harder for some to get into, that’s just what the music itself is. There is a definite goth influence as well; I imagine quite a bit of those people would get into this album and many I know do like it. Like Reznor, Crosby also mixes electronic and rock to the tracks and Crosby does things truly unlike anyone else out there. I say it’s worth it and you’re wasting time if you’re reading my review. “Music for People” and “Nude” (my favorite album of all-time) are also exceptional. (But I dedicated my 100th review to this album.)