It’s been five years since VASA’s debut full-length Colours was released, its title a perfect encapsulation of the Glasgow quartet’s fun, day-glo approach to the predominately solemn, muted palette of instrumental post-rock. After years of touring, the band have finally returned with a second album, Heroics, the title surely a winking nod to the fret fireworks contained within.
Certainly, the album opens with a rush of triumph in the one-two punch of Childhood and the title track, both serving as a statement of intent with upbeat, chiming melodies married to crunching, slab-thick grooves and darting riffs that bring to mind the much missed Fang Island. VASA are clearly aiming for a pleasing immediacy rather than getting lost in math-rock abstraction like so many of their contemporaries, the rest of Heroics wasting no time in hitting a giddy, riff-heavy sweet spot.
As much as this is an album ideal for simply rocking out to, there is a thematic concept to Heroics, its tracks navigating a journey through the major life periods of childhood, adolescence and adulthood. With no lyrics, the listener can tune into the concept as much as they like but third track Everything Is Golden sounds, in the best way, like a mash-up between a Capcom beat-em-up soundtrack and kung-fu film score with its brash eastern motifs. Indeed, with a later track titled Mini-Boss, you have to assume that the young VASA were reared on a steady diet of videogames.
Fourth track Adolescence is the first real change of pace and foreboding of the heightened emotions to come. The song’s ambient opening of processed percussion and sampled vocals goes screeching right into the heaviest guitars of the album so far, sounding positively huge and glacial, VASA proving why they are as at home on a metal bill as they are on line-ups made up of the more angular ArcTanGent crowd.
Heroics continues to reach greater heights by the time both Prom Night and Adulthood have left their mark, the tracks exemplifying the shimmering shoegaze influences VASA have repurposed and weaponised to overpowering effect. The closing Settle might be best of all, its spacious opening building to a run of celebratory crescendos and climatic grandeur that abruptly ceases to some poignant closing chords. As that last perfectly pitched note rings out, you can’t help but feel you’ve listened to something truly special. This is a real breakthrough for VASA.