Post-rock was saved by remembering that music should have contrast. Post-rock was saved by remembering that color is a spectrum. Post-rock was saved by remembering to have some fun god damn it. Post-rock was saved by bands like VASA. They probably didn’t know they were saving it; they probably didn’t really care. But they did. Alongside a whole host of (mostly) European and North American bands, VASA have been re-injecting post-rock with chutzpah, moxy, guts, whatever you want to call it, that it had somewhat lost in its strive for artistic vision. Their new release, the soon-to-be-released Heroics, is a wonderful continuation of this energy, chock full of bouncy riffs, loud bass, and an all around vibe of expression, unfiltered, unbridled, fun expression. Sure, it’s not the kind of post-rock that will make you gaze out the window on a rainy day, pining for a lost world or whatever, but it’s post-rock which will make you dance and shout and what better role for music, eh?
At the core of Heroics is, as has always been the case for VASA, the groove section. The key lies in “free synergy” which is a fancy name for saying that sometimes the bass and drums move together and sometimes they move apart. “Prom Night” is a great example of that, one of the more enjoyable ragers on this album. At certain points in the track, along the main riff of it, the bass and the drums hit together, expounding on the same beats and hits.
This creates a largesse of sound, an impact that’s hard not to feel resounding through your bones and into your feet, inducing a tapping there, a bright little song to match the music. This is especially the case around the two and a half minute mark, as the closest thing the track has to a chorus just erupts with energy. But at other points, the cymbals and the bass licks diverge, creating a more agile, scintillating quality. The sound becomes denser, with the instruments drawing little filigree circles around each other, multiplying what’s going on and creating the sort of “vast” VASA vernacular (alliterations are fun y’all) we’ve grown to love the band for.
Of course, no discussion of VASA would be complete without the guitars. Oh, the glorious guitars! On Heroics, we certainly find the same kind of bright, happy-go-lucky approach from the band’s past releases. But everything has also been made tighter, punchier, and more aggressive. I hate commenting on editing stuff, because my plebeian ear invariably gets things wrong, but it sounds as if the guitar tracks are more tighter knit, creating a focus in the delivery that previous releases didn’t have.
And if we diverge away from technical mumbo jumbo, we can talk about how freaking intense the compositions around this time. VASA have imported something of the darker streak that’s been running around their scene (through bands like Town Portal, for example) into their sound, producing more “twisted” tracks like “Victoria”. The opening riff is heavy enough on its own but listen to how the guitar contorts around feedback and a more sinister tone throughout the track. And are those blast-beats I hear near the middle of the track? Most assuredly so!
The track is also crowned by a monstrous breakdown at its end, gathering all the momentum created by it so far and just dumping it into the sound, slowing it down and turning up the feedback to eleven. The end result is even more punch than usual, taking the VASA sound and jamming it through a mirror darkly. When you take these two sounds together, the jumpy, bright, energetic vibe of good ol’ VASA and the darker tones replete throughout the album, you get a whole lot of drive.
Heroics, more than any of the band’s previous releases, just goes all out, driving back to the point we opened with: post-rock should be fun for crying out loud! Music should make you shout, itch in your shins, it should make you want to stand up and run through a wall. Music should make you feel and VASA have gotten quite good at reaching in to that place within us that responds to music and give it a good twist, to set our hearts running. Heroics is a ride, a lark, a celebration, a release. It’s what good post-rock should sound like in the year of our Lord, 2020. Blessed be!
Heroics releases tomorrow, Friday the 21st. Remember to head on over to the band’s Bandcamp page and pre-order it. Support independent artists!