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Armin Van Buuren “Intense” – Album Review

Armada Music (2013)

The headline act at the King of Netherlands’ coronation last month, Armin Van Buuren was also recently voted the world’s number one DJ by readers of DJ Magazine for the fifth time in his career. But despite his superstar status amongst the progressive trance community, and apparently Dutch royalty, the 36-year-old has yet to achieve that mainstream international breakthrough like the men (Guetta, Avicii, Deadmau5) he kept off the top spot.

His fifth studio album, Intense, might finally provide him with that elusive hit. In fact, there are two potentially massive singles here. First, the slow-building EDM of “This Is What It Feels Like,” which sounds like a less bombastic take on Swedish House Mafia’s global number one, “Don’t You Worry Child.” And secondly, “Turn This Love Around,” a euphoric hook-up with Australian twin sisters Nervo which suggests diva-ish vocal house could become Armin Van Buuren’s forte should he choose.

There are a couple of interesting ideas on offer elsewhere, namely the epic title track collaboration with US-Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari, which fuses furious Baltic classical music with flashes of dubstep and retro arcade game electro, and the surprising indie-rock finale of “Reprise.”

Unfortunately, the other 11 tracks on Intense indicate why Van Buuren has struggled to transfer his success from the super-clubs to the charts. “Waiting For The Night,” “Won’t Let You Go” and “Forever Is Ours” all stick to the same safe generic trance-pop formula that has defined his near 20-year career, aimless instrumentals “Pulsar” and “Last Stop Before Heaven” plod along for six long minutes without ever threatening to provide a memorable hook, while the spooky “Love Never Came” is little more than a watered-down retread of Faithless’ “We Come 1.”

Intense feels like it’s the last-gasp opportunity for Armin Van Buuren to reach the masses before the EDM scene reaches saturation point. But the two obvious pop juggernauts aside, he doesn’t appear to have grasped it with both hands.

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2.5 / 5 stars     

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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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Posted in: Album Reviews, Electronic Music, Featured


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