Counterpoint: Heave Blood & Die – Post People
DESTROYING other reviewers with FACTS and LOGIC.
In his recent Post Posting post, our man Joaquin Stick took a quick look at the most recent album from Norwegian band Heave Blood & Die. Too quick a look, probably—time constraints prevented him from giving the album the attention that I think it deserves. So I’d like to
wring some more content out of it rectify this by shining a more thorough light on it. This is much more of an addendum than a rebuttal; nobody’s actually getting destroyed. Sorry.
Had Joaquin been looking for a post-metal album, he may have been better off with Vol. 2, the band’s last album. You see, not even two years ago, Heave Blood & Die sounded quite different and still fit under the wide umbrella of that genre tag comfortably. Admittedly, given that Stick had already heard the singles off of Post People, I doubt post-metal is what he was expecting, and it seems that he didn’t much like Vol. 2, either, but please let me shoehorn in a paragraph about it anyway, okay? Thank you.
Almost exclusively mid-paced, Vol. 2 uniformly dealt in the sort of heavy, gloomy atmosphere I associate with the style, and offered only occasional peaks and valleys to vary things up. The latter would consist of the band dipping into somewhat vile, more aggressive sludge territory, while the former were flights into not-quite-shoegaze heights. The ubiquitous (and sometimes incongruous) use of a Hammond organ also established a loose tie to classic doom metal. Despite such deviations, the musical ideas on the album felt pretty limited; it was mostly the singer who, with his slightly distorted voice, seemed to determine the direction and mood of a song by dialing his aggression up or down, while the rest of the band always plodded along in much the same fashion.
Post People irons out these flaws completely. No longer is the onus of determining the mood solely on the singer; composition is now perfectly capable of driving a song. The instrumentation is much less one-dimensional and more adventurous. There’s still the Hammond organ here and there, but the synths have gotten way more voluminous and varied. You also still have the distorted vocals, but just like everything else has grown, the singer now actually moves along a scale instead of staying in one place and just changing the intensity.
But it’s not necessary to have heard a worse album just to realize that this one is good. In itself, Post People offers a lot to sink your teeth into. It’s hard not to regard its leaving metal behind as a kind of liberation if it’s opened up all these possibilities. Songs like the title track and “Kawanishi Aeroplane” are now able to go all-in on the shoegaze that was at best hinted at before, creating beautifully wistful vibes (if you like one of these, I’m sure you’ll warm up to the other, as well; more on their similarity later). Then there are krautrock-flavoured tunes like the opener or, much more so, the bouncy “Metropolitan Jam” with its motorik beat, ominously droning synths, and vocals blaring out like an alarm. “True Believer” and “Continental Drifting” occupy the intersection of pop and post-punk where you might also find Depeche Mode and Editors. And lastly, you’ve got “Geometrical Shapes” and “Everything Is Now,” both of which veer off into experimental territory.
As Joaquin noted, some of these songs click right away, but it did take me about 5 spins until I felt I had a good grasp of everything that Post People is putting out there. On top of all the stylistic variety there is to see, perhaps there’s even a story to discover. Or maybe I’m just wont to staple narratives onto music. It does appear to me though as if “Kawanishi Aeroplane” conjures a longing for a different life in a different place, poignantly expressed in the image of watching airplanes pass overhead (not to mention that beautiful chorus melody). This is directly juxtaposed with the harsh reality of the drudgery and repetition of city life in “Metropolitan Jam,” which implies repetition ad infinitum with its fadeout.
An alternative seems to be offered in “True Believer,” which comes with all the sleekness and glitz that faith must hold for a person searching for something more, as it promises not only a better life, but a whole other plane of existence. Or maybe it’s drugs instead of religion, because it leads us right to the trance-like introspective stasis of “Everything is Now,” which may be musically uneventful but nonetheless crucial; it seems that it is here that the possibility of transcendence of one’s mere existence is first considered. We return to more earthly concerns in the next song, but this time, we’re not only looking at a city, but at the whole world: “twin towers falling,” “environmental warfare,” “Continental Drifting”—it’s as if we’ve begun to zoom out or otherwise move away from all this toil and trouble, seeing it in a more abstract and reductive way. Another layer of abstraction is added as everything is reduced to “Geometrical Shapes.”
And with that track’s psychedelic, noisy ending, we pass through something. Maybe it’s the stratosphere; “dreaming of runways / flashes of American air raids / noiseless glimmer of the night before” suggests that we’re either at a level far above everything or far beyond everything. Maybe we’ve passed the end of humanity; maybe “Post People” literally means after people. Both in its mood and with the mention of runways, the title track seems to build a bridge back to “Kawanishi Aeroplane,” perhaps implying that our goal of another existence has been reached.
Or maybe this is all in my head. Either way, as I’ve gained appreciation for the music on the record on subsequent spins, the emergence of this narrative thread has further helped tie everything together (although you may have noticed I have no idea how the opener fits into this). With or without story mode enabled, I hope that Joaquin and anyone else who may have passed this album up will find the time to give it some more consideration. I really like it.
Post People is available now via Fysisk Format, either digitally or on recycled vinyl.