Velahsa is a band that seems to get younger with age. The Minneapolis punk trio has produced four albums over the last 10 years, but their music is increasingly wild, combative and angsty. It’s gotten more skillful, but that’s not the same as more polished. 

They’ve never been afraid to experiment with non-punk elements like keyboards, cello, xylophones and gooey sentimentality, but the basic punk defiance is always there. Even if, as lead singer/songwriter Bryan Scott Miller openly acknowledges in his lyrics, the defiance is internal, about squaring off against our own demons.

The band announces its intentions right off in the first track, appropriately titled “Razor,” with a brutal roll from drummer Jack Smrekar and commanding bass by Tony Mary, who, post this album’s recording, has been replaced by Steve Burnett. The song continues in this vein so viciously it feels like it’s going to throw itself off-kilter, and indeed it does midway with chord changes that sound like a warping vinyl record, while never slowing the charge.

 The lyrics express the primal roots of punk, a violent reaction to one’s own vulnerability: “Stick out your neck for them, they will cut it off / quick to judge just who you are / the way you see yourself is not what they see / frozen in time, the kid who you used to be.” But, the song hints, we are our own worst enemies: “Beat you to the punch, calling myself out before you can.”

“This Too Shall Pass,” sounds like a Sex Pistols song, given the crude, distorted guitar riffs, albeit more melodic and with a synthesizer. Miller’s vocals move from resentful low notes to belted-out highs, where his voice stands out the best.

Velahsa at Tower Avenue Tavern in October 2023. Lead singer Bryan Miller is dressed as Angus Young for the Halloween Pub Crawl. (Photo by Richard Thomas)

“How You Can” shifts the gears with a strumming folk guitar, piano accompaniment (provided by guest Craig Olund) and a sweet, doo-wop-like melody. Indeed it is heart-tugging with poetic imagery: “9/24 I was driving to work and the sunrise pink and blue just like a fire in the sky.” I gather 9/24 refers to Sept. 24, a day that just so happened to have a particularly good sunrise, or maybe it’s a cultural reference I missed. The point is, the sunrise reminds him of both the love and the anger in his lover’s eyes and “whatever it is that makes you want to be mine …  keep that fire now.”

“This is For Me” packs in several different movements in a little over two minutes, starting out like a cross between reggae and the first part of Pink Floyd’s “Money,” followed by straightforward rock and back again, and then there are more rhythm and chord changes. How many times they had to practice that to get it right, I dread to ask.

“My So-Called Life” is a sentimental non-rocker with piano, cello and xylophone. It’s a kinder, gentler breakup song about a young love that didn’t last, forgiving of both parties but wallowing in sad-guy misery: “I still don’t know what the answer is, we’re all unhappy anyway.” The silver lining is that it ended before it could leave him with less-fond memories: “Sometimes I’m glad it didn’t last.” Musically similar is “I Gave Her a Song, You Gave Her Fear,” which is all synth, xylophone and gentle guitar.

There’s not a weak track on here, but other standouts include the hard-driving “Float Away, You” (an odd title since the song is anything but floaty); the hard-strumming “Less and Less,” which theoretically could make a decent country song; a solo acoustic cover of Paramore’s 2010 hit “The Only Exception” (available only on the CD); and the closer, the moshpitty “Get Lost Driving Home.” My personal favorite is  the headbanging, regressive but musically complex “Regress,” with insightful lyrics such as, “Living in my head never did me any good.”

Then there’s “Edward Chainsaw,” an older song by Miller that finally made it onto an album. The music is like a singalong campfire song but the lyrics are a campfire horror story, and perhaps the most ghoulish thing I’ve heard since The Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom.” Edward is introduced to us as someone the narrator met “when I was just a kid,” but turns out to be his own evil alter ego, who … well, it doesn’t literally involve a chainsaw, but it might be worse. If you must know, you’ll have to listen to it yourself.

Velahsa plays an album release show Saturday, Feb. 10, 7 p.m. at Wussow’s Concert Cafe with Theft by Swindle.