"Empires" was a concept album that delivered the message to us that all empires end in ashes, the same way they begin. It delivered to us the message that ours is an empire that is already in the midst of a slow decline that is steadily getting faster. "Futureperfect" was a concept album that beckoned the question as to whether or not we are what was intended, and what we plan to do to better ourselves while we still have a chance. But before any of those two albums, there was "Praise the Fallen (PTF2012)," the first of VNV Nation's trilogy of pain and hope. While still predominantly instrumental, following the footsteps of the less-than-spectacular debut "Advance and Follow," this album shows VNV's new direction towards a sound with more mass appeal but no less impact. The lyrical presence on this album, while not as strong as on "Empires" or "Futureperfect," shows Ronan's growing ability to write thought-provoking words that can reach our hearts and our minds. All but one of the five vocal songs (why do people keep forgetting that he sings on "Voice" as well?) show Ronan singing with as much passion as on later material, but with a great deal more anger. The vocals are harsh, giving the sensation of a rallying call to arms. VNV Nation always questions the relevance of war, its futility, and yet on songs like "Joy" and "Honour" there is still the sense that conflict is needed. The most beautiful song on this album in my opinion is "Solitary." Here, Ronan sings in the soft intelligent voice we've come to know and love, telling us that change is all we can ask for...it is always there, we should revel in it, embrace it, not fear or fight it. It has the best lyric in VNV history, "With this line I'll mark the past as a symbol of beginning." I think it the best because it embodies all that VNV Nation stands for...the past is merely a beginning...the future is what we should look to, and we should start looking now. The instrumental passages on this album are a treat as well, showcasing a beautiful symbiosis between warm symphonics and cold electronics and beats. Ronan Harris and Mark Jackson have crafted a wonderful concept album that might be bleaker than "Empires" and especially "Futureperfect," but all things must start somewhere..."Praise the Fallen" was the first of three wonderful albums in a band's evolution, from underground sensation to being on their way to becoming one of the most intelligent and one of the most socially conscious bands ever.