The strewn out, atmospheric introduction to Scottish post-rock group VASA’s latest effort, Heroics, sits well with me, as a fan of the genre. “Childhood” is the album’s equivalent of the THX sting that accompanied movies of a certain period; it fills you with a sense of grandeur for what you are about to expect.
It’s also the shortest song on the album – so it’s an apt welcome to begin their follow up to 2015’s debut, Colours. Taking the Trent Reznor approach to time frames between albums demonstrates a group that have taken their time (and care) to try and top that critically acclaimed work.
Perhaps it’s the appearances across a “who’s who” of festivals that lead to the five-year delay between releases. T in the Park, Wickerman Festival and the math-prog-metal festival du jour ArcTanGent, all of which have seen VASA expand their listenership.
Heroics strengths at times embrace the post-rock formula but more importantly at other eschews the conventions and tropes the genre is both acclaimed and criticized for. Melodically, this is an uplifting journey into the cosmos – the harsh undertones that are sometimes forced home with bands are instead implemented with dynamic, melancholy fashion.
“Adolescence”, in particular, walks the line between wistful and euphoric as it yanks you into the fields of both throughout its composition. There is an earnest yet destructive power throughout Heroics, which is akin to seminal Nottingham group Amusement Parks on Fire; in particular, the band’s often heralded 2006 album, Out of Angeles.
Note: it was seminal to me, anyway…
So what does it eschew, exactly? There has long been a complaint with some people not acquainted with post-rock that the songs “go on for too long.” I’ll be the first to admit that at times watching a band performing live with songs that reach close to 8 minutes can be draining. Not in that good, desert/stoner rock dirge either.
Seems like VASA understand that struggle also. That they manage to capture a number of different climate changes within their songs without them slowly become a chore to listen to not only works in their favour but makes this an incredibly accessible album for not only purists but to demonstrate to even the most cynical of post-rock debutantes.
The longest song on the album clocks in just over 8:01 (“Settle”), while the second-longest, “Prom Night” crosses the finish line at 6:01. These songs, in particular, strike me as being Heroics opuses where VASA have allowed this time to breathe and fluctuate in the compositions, as all good post-rock acts should.
Heroics is a fantastic follow-up and those five years between albums must have only served for the band to zero in on what made them so popular in the first place. If this is what post-rock has inspired to a new legion of musicians, I’m all for it.
It’s galvanized me to go back and see what else I may have missed from this new movement of orchestral-like metallic prog