Review Summary: Neither here nor there.Heirs
is like that guy you once met at a party who, upon entering, became
the party. Absolutely infectious in his positivity with the rare ability to crank the feel good factor up to eleven, this guy is effortlessly contagious. As long as the night is young and the party is still going, you want this guy flowing. However, morning arrives and you awake on the couch to the very same guy grabbing a warm, half finished beer from next to the bin, swigging away with half a dance still in his step. As he staggers around prodding prone bodies around him, it dawns on you that this guy is permanently stuck
on eleven, and all of the things which made him so endearing the night before suddenly make him fairly grating in any other context. Despite the extreme comparison, it’s important to stress how vital the right environment is for Heirs
to truly flourish. The album is excitable and immediate, but it’s simply too intense to really work anywhere outside of the habitat it will undoubtedly thrive in; the live stage. Listening from the safe confines of your home you’ll find yourself wishing you could tell Heirs
to take a breather and relax a little, but in the great outdoors you’ll probably find yourself doing the exact opposite.
It’s easy to see how Heirs
was born, and in many ways you can’t blame And So I Watch You From Afar for the direction they’ve headed in. They perfected and never bettered the heavy post rock featured on their self titled debut, and delving even deeper, you could argue that they never managed to top the bombastic opening triple assault. What’s more, ASIWYFA’s brilliant, frenetic live shows almost always include the audience singing their lyric-less songs note for note right back at them. Heirs feels like the answer to a question the band might very well have asked themselves after one of these such shows - why not give them something to really sing along to?
Having been one of many enthusiastic fans shouting the notes of “Set Guitars to Kill” right back at them in a field in Bristol, I’m absolutely certain that these songs will blossom in the same atmosphere. The potent “Redesigned a Million Times” recycles the simple, catchy lyrics of its title over bouncy riffs and glossy electronics, and it succeeds because it sticks around long enough to make more than just a fleeting impression. The vocal hook is shouted with gusto and in unison, and it’s not hard to imagine it being a mainstay on setlists throughout the country. Often times however, the songs don’t make it past the 3 minute mark and they suffer as a consequence. There are culprits aplenty and the formula is a simple one; punchy instrumentals fly out of the traps consisting of bright, jaunty riffs, and they’re quickly joined by ethereal vocals or group chanting, neither of which improve nor offend. You’d be hard pushed to call any of the sub 3 minute tracks here poor because the skill used to create them is obvious, the problem is that practically none of them impose themselves enough to be remembered for long afterwards.
It’s no surprise then that the album’s highlights arrive when the band chooses to take their foot off the gas a little. Album closer “Tryer, You” contains much of the same sparkle and zest as its peers, but it takes its time to make its point and feels much more confident in its skin as a result. Album highlight “A Beacon, A Compass, An Anchor” buys into the same ethos; it’s in no hurry to find its stride, and the softly strummed chords which open the song come as a welcome reprieve to the mayhem in the songs surrounding it. Furthermore, title track “Heirs” teases you with what sounds like an outro at the 6 minute mark, only to pick up steam again and drive the song to a fulfilling conclusion.
The meshing of math and post rock is a careful balancing act which few have perfected. By reeling in their post rock tendencies and adding ever more vocals, ASIWYFA find themselves in a musical no man’s land. Too far from the safety of where they’re most comfortable, but only really dipping one toe into the catchy math rock which they’re trying to emulate. There are more than a few signs that the band will find the middle ground between the music that prospers live and the music that shines on record; Heirs
is a frustrating reminder that they’re not there yet.