One thing that Sweden Rock Festival has always been able to do for me is to satisfy my hunger for the discovery of new music. As a result, sometimes that’s “new to my ears” music in the form of an old or obscure band that I’d just not crossed paths with in the past. Sometimes that’s in the form of a new band. In this case that I’m about to present, it’s a new band. A young band, an all-female band. A band that I’d be very surprised if 10 people in North America knew about prior to reading this. But dammit you all should thank me for making this introduction. I speak of VA Rocks hailing from Lund, Sweden. And let me tell you they Pull No Punches…in fact, they strike straight at your balls!
SWEDEN ROCK 2014 and VA?!
Let’s backtrack a bit to the start of the story. In 2014 I made my intrepid journey from a small town north of Toronto to a small town in Sweden for the second year in a row. During that adventure, I spent some time at the NEMIS stage. A practice that has become my custom started in the first voyage over. Standing for New Music In Sweden, the stage offers new, young, usually unsigned bands a chance to play the event. That year I found a band called VA!? and here’s what I wrote later on in my recap review of the festival:
“On my way by I passed The Rockklassiker Stage as an all-female trio began their set. Their first song, which may have been called “Get Excited” drew me in. Calling themselves VA!?, which I later learned means “what” in Swedish, the punk-infused music was very catchy and I lingered for a good portion of their set. Songs like “Crush”, “Kiss This Bitch”, “I Wanna Be Your Captain” and a cover of “Helter Skelter” all delighted the crowd around me.”
I searched for VA!?, once I returned home, but sadly did not find a lot on them.
SWEDEN ROCK 2017 and VA Rocks
Now here we are in 2017 and on the roster appeared a band under the moniker VA Rocks. Don’t ask me why, but I had one hell of an inkling that this would be the very same ladies of VA!?. And so, showing up at the front of the stage for their 7:30 pm set on the Thursday proved that my instincts were totally correct. The ladies ripped through a fantastic set. They had the entire crowd under the Rockklassiker Tent responding with thunderous applause and ear ringing cheers. Near the end of their set, I spied the merch set up on the side. So, with no other customers there yet I seized my opportunity to pick up the CD, Pull No Punches.
At the conclusion of the set, the merch area became literally flooded with fans clamoring for the swag. Seeing fellow Decibel Geek, our ace photographer, Shawn “Animalize” Irwin in line I joined him. His words sum things up perfectly: “They were awesome” as he held up the CD he’d just purchased. He loved it so much that he even forgot to take some photos! We both waited to get to the front of the line and have the ladies sign our CD’s. And I for one couldn’t wait to get home and crank this up!
Now here we are and VA Rocks‘ Pull No Punches has been filling my ears for the last couple of weeks. It needs to fill yours too! The album blasts off in good form and plays well from beginning to end.
VA ROCKS – Pull No Punches
Literally, a hair over the two-minute mark of punk influenced, high energy, hard rock greet the listener in the perhaps autobiographical “Rockbitch”. Featuring a driving, charging riff, my only complaint is that the song is just two minutes too short! Next, “Bluesman” finds guest Pontus Snibb from Bonafide adding his vocal prowess in a verse or two. Soulful vocals from Ida Vollmer that meld perfectly with Snibb‘s are at the forefront of this zippy little rocker.
“Kiss This Fist” finds itself in the third spot. As you can read from the above I suspect I misheard the title during my first VA?!/VA Rocks experience in 2014. Loaded with angst and attitude this song about the end of a relationship and standing up for yourself (I think) really speeds along. A great in concert sing-a-long chorus is found here, something VA Rocks do very well.
“Play It Like An Animal”, another composition on the shorter runtime side of things at almost two and a half minutes moves along nicely. Certainly, not just filler but doesn’t overly jump out at me in the many rotations I’ve recently awarded to Pull No Punches.
The bluesy feel dominating “Killing Me” introduces some different musical equipment to Pull No Punches by way of a harmonica. The track has a great low-end riff and groove that literally glides along for the duration. Perhaps a little departure in style for these gals, but they pull it off in spades resulting in one of the most memorable cuts included in this 10-pack.
From there we head into “Rattlesnake”, a more straight ahead rocker before coming to what would be the low spot for me. Not that it’s a bad song, but more that I simply hate (hate, hate, hate) ballads. That said, I never skip the song…perhaps I’m softening up in older age? This one, “Sunday Walk of Shame”, features Ida with her acoustic guitar and I’m sure many listeners can identify with the lyrical subject matter. Again, I stress, this doesn’t mean a bad song. I just have a personal non-preference (perhaps hatred) for ballad songs.
Now back to the supercharged sounds as we board the ship with VA Rocks for “I Wanna Be Your Captain”. Here we have a fantastic sing-a-long chorus that, I speak from experience when I say really raises your fist in concert. A catchy riff takes us into “Miami High Heels”, another shorter but sweet guitar driven ripper of a song.
Pull No Punches wraps up its ride with “Get Excited”, the first track I heard as I approached the stage in 2014. Another high-energy ripper with a “raise your fist chorus”. After hearing this song again, it’s no wonder that I was drawn in passing that stage in 2014!
In conclusion, I will be spinning this disc a lot more and severely hope there are other VA Rocks gigs in my future!