The humanity exhibited by Sweden’s Via Fondo is exhausting. The instrumental battalion which swirls slicing guitar over frenetic gasps of percussion never lets up on its crushed accelerator. This need for speed drips with bluntness — placing 14 minutes of blistering screamo on a collection titled Fast isn’t lost in translation — as well as poetic urgency. On opener “Not Yet,” the most desolate of human portraits rises above smoky, pathless guitar melodies: “The vacuity he feels/Capital as the atmosphere/Credit on his cards/Cash in his pockets.” This transfiguration from Swedish to English is provided by the band, yet the original sting of torched economics is no less powerful in its mother tongue.
While track one demonstrates the trials a person faces in a tangled economic system, Fast‘s biggest strength lies in its economy of space. The release begins with a seven-minute excursion into Via Fondo’s arsenal: guitars awash with buzzing ring-outs, crisp yet overblown cymbal play and an embattled vocal presence which drifts in and out of the action like a passive tidal crash. After the foundation has been established, “Rovaniemi” and “Secrets” offer abridged examinations of the same expanse.
The former is the shortest track on Fast (clocking in at a digestible three minutes) and so its brevity compensates with amplification. The scenes depicted on “Rovaniemi” are loud; crushing percussion undulates under and over backwashed distortion. The lyricism delivers another sonic boom, as abrasive yelps gulp out a series of rhetorical questions as the track disengages: “What is it you are afraid of?/What is it you are defending?/What have you got to lose?”
“Secrets” musters up the courage for an answer, even if the preceding track didn’t warrant one. An extended metaphor of harvest and a subsequent dinner to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor is interwoven into relatively peaceful arrangements — even the drums dial back to let intersecting guitar lines pause at the intersection of head and heart. There are distant, chime-like elements which heighten this introspection; despite the lyrics suggesting the “table is set with potential,” this truly a feast for one. In this way, what is feared, defended, and lost is an internal struggle, a paralyzing humanity. But as the guitars reach their most furious, tangled crescendo, it is found that there’s to be “A larger harvest next year/Always next year.” Whether this signals hope or a return to larger community circles is as open an inquiry as the widened silence which closes Via Fondo’s most trying 14 minutes.
There are times when the oft-crushing instrumentals get crunched by the vinyl mix, such as the sterilized presentation of “Not Yet” losing its push as a flame-fueled opener. “Secrets,” with its reserved qualities, are the pressing’s highlights. The chimes which add an eerie foreboding element, avoid being buried, and the instrumentals avoid folding into one another. Overall, this is a record not so much pricked by surface noise, but shunted by its own compressed sound.
To show off the release’s B-side etching, Fast is housed in a transparent poly bag and includes a double-sided insert. The insert’s front showcases the EP’s artwork, while the reverse combines lyrics and credits. It’s interesting to note that the lyrics, however sung in Swedish, are printed here in English.
The B-side etching is the star of Fast‘s vinyl counterpart, cleanly presenting the intersection of geometric shapes and archaic symbols. This is the only configuration of the release: a clear 12″ limited to 300 copies.