VASA- ‘Heroics’

Vasa’s debut album was a shot of adrenaline- a much-welcome flash of movement and colour into the sometimes stoic and sepia-toned world of post-rock. It was punk rock, really. So the news that their sophomore effort would be an ambitious concept album, “a sonic exploration of coming to terms with the pains of ageing by reconnecting with our own individual pasts and the histories of generations before” was a little disconcerting. Surely the Scottish outfit would find themselves lumbered down, overburdened, and overthinking everything.

Turns out, not so much. While Vasa have done away with the amusing track titles (certainly nothing on a par with ‘Fat Ronaldo’), and added more sensible artwork, it takes about ten seconds of the title track here to quiet down any concerns about them growing old too gracefully. It’s a fizzy, busy rocket of a song, it’s laser-guided fun, it’s the type of track you play to people who aren’t really into “this sort of thing” and so easily win them around.

Then ‘Prom Night’ starts with a sparkle but actually does add some satisfying shade to the band’s bright light, ‘Mini-Boss’ bounds around, perhaps earning its name from being one the shortest yet one of the boldest tracks here, and ‘Everything Is Golden’ is now-trademark Vasa- a high-intensity rollercoaster of brilliant melodies and bouncing rhythms- newly buoyed by fresh air and fresh confidence. It’s easy to imagine them thrashing the grand finale to pieces when they play it live too.

The band are painting with a more varied palette than before then but repeat listens do muddy some songs together rather than have them stand further out. There’s still no need for vocals but ‘Heroics’ occasionally cries out for more to navigate by.

The grand concept doesn’t always shine through either, but there are three tracks- ‘Childhood’, ‘Adolesence’, and ‘Adulthood’- where it couldn’t be clearer. The three share structures and themes, all performing the classic post-rock quiet-loud dynamic but in slightly different ways. Perhaps fittingly, the man in the middle is the strongest of the three, starting with lush electronic textures and finishing with a flurry of crunching guitars. ‘Childhood’ is quick, clean and eager by comparison, and the latter track feels weathered and worried, tempered with subtle, decaying static. It’s really neatly done.

The most powerful emotional punch is reserved for the final track though. Less restless and more mid-paced than what’s come before, ‘Settle’ still demands your attention. It contains sun-baked, hazy melodies, a Celtic kind of tremble, big, beautiful riffs, and a section that sounds like a lost soundtrack to your favourite retro video game. And, like the best instrumental music, it conjures up all kinds of vivid images with ease. It’s probably the best song here.

Ambitious, energetic, expressive and entertaining then, ‘Heroics’ is a belter. And while comparisons can still be drawn with the likes of And So I Watch You From Afar and Adebisi Shank among others, this is an album that separates Vasa from the pack. No growing pains.

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