V.A.N. (Violence Against Nature): For or Against?

By: Patricia Stadnik

Several weeks ago, metalcore mainstays Bad Omens released new music for the first time since they dropped the incredibly successful album, THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND, in early 2022. The release is a single called V.A.N. (an acronym for ‘Violence Against Nature’) in collaboration with somewhat controversial alternative metal singer Poppy. You may dimly remember Poppy from her off-putting, robotic YouTube videos, back when she was going by ‘ThatPoppy.’ Nowadays, Poppy, also known as Moriah Rose Pereira, has made quite a name for herself as a metal artist, and currently boasts around 2.9 million listeners on Spotify. Anyhow, this song has Bad Omens fans split for a few distinct reasons. 

Bad Omens comprises frontman Noah Sebastian, bassist Nicholas Ruffilo, lead guitarist Joakim Karlsson, and Nick Folio on the drums. Pretty much every one of their songs prominently includes all four of them… except this one. The brunt of the vocals for V.A.N. lies with Poppy. It was later revealed, however, that Noah provides some of the atmospheric noise in the back of the track. A sizeable portion of Bad Omens’ renown comes from their talented vocalist, so his relative absence from V.A.N. was both a shock and a detractor for many fans. Still, when the song is performed live, Noah contributes quite a bit more. Poppy’s voice is well-suited to this track, but I would not have been opposed to a little more from him in the studio version. 

Like her character on YouTube, Poppy is purposefully ominous on V.A.N. Her ‘character’ for the song is an AI bent on destroying our world. She makes this absolutely clear as she sings lines like “I am in your algorithm / learning all your mannerisms” and “Existential execution / just a fluke in evolution / History already forgot.” Fans already creeped out or even annoyed by Poppy in the past were not quite receptive to latest hair-raising musical venture. On the other hand, Poppy has arguably the most fitting voice and vibe to bring this killer AI concept to life. Another gripe fans have with the song is its relatively repetitive nature. It’s true that the song is more repetitive than the much of the rest of Bad Omens’ discography, but given the lyrical context, hefty repetition makes sense. An eerie AI wouldn’t threaten humanity just once… would it?

I think that V.A.N. is great. It’s a creative track with really cool and experimental instrumentals and acts a showcase for the members of the band who are often overlooked compared to Noah. I especially enjoyed the drumming from Nick Folio, who goes seamlessly from tempered but atmospheric jolts to a rapid, flashy rhythm, and back. 

V.A.N. is most likely the first of several tracks on the band’s upcoming album Concrete Forever, the deluxe edition of THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND. In an interview with Joel Madden, Noah confirmed that this will be an “amalgam of remixes, acoustic reworkings and several new collaborations with other artists.” I heard a rumour that there’s a song featuring Too Close To Touch, who have released sparingly since the tragic passing of their lead singer, Keaton Pierce, in 2022. Bad Omens’ joint cover of the latter band’s song Sympathy as a tribute to him is beyond heartbreaking. A track by both bands is waterworks in the making. Concrete Forever is slated for release sometime in 2024, though there’s no official date quite yet. I can’t wait to hear potentially this and anything else Bad Omens has cooked up. 

I saw Bad Omens live last fall during the North American leg of their Concrete Forever tour and bought a t-shirt. I have now realized that the front of this shirt is also the cover art for the song, so I was going to have to rep V.A.N. whether I liked it or not. If you haven’t noticed yet, I do like it, but I will admit to some bias: I’ve listened to Poppy for years, so I’m relatively accustomed to her erratic style. (The very first concert I got to attend in Montréal was Poppy!) Bad Omens wrapped the European portion of their Concrete Forever tour in February. Poppy herself opened those dates. The two acts jointly performed V.A.N. at each show, and both Poppy and the Bad Omens foursome noticeably enjoyed performing the song. Their satisfaction with the result puts V.A.N. even higher in my book. If you are even a little bit partial to metalcore or just metal in general, give this track a try.

Did you listen to it? Alright! Now pick a side: for or against Violence Against Nature?