Rolo Tomassi / Antares – split 7”

Rolo Tomassi & Antares splitHere we have an unpretentiously packaged record; just a plastic sleeve with a piece of wax inside. (Although, yes, there are the obligatory different colours for the weenil nerds. I think I got the clear one. Does it matter?) Eschewing artwork and liner notes and letting the music speak for itself. Admirable. So what does the music say?

Before I get into that, a brief introduction for those not in the know: Rolo Tomassi and Antares are two of the UK’s premier young progressive tech-metal bands. Rolo Tomassi are pretty well known these days; if you’re not already aware of them then you must have a pretty sweet rock to hide under. Antares are less well-known but are making a name for themselves among those in the know; this is their second release on Holy Roar. I reviewed the first here and was quite taken with it.

Some time ago Rolo Tomassi used to get described as ‘spazzcore’. It’s a widely hated appellation; it was even back when it first slipped into popular parlance, but there was a time when it sometimes felt fitting. Not any more, though: it’s too clear, today, that this music is about precision, not abandon, and we all know it.

So Sheffield’s Rolo Tomassi present us with a single song, the short, sweet and ferocious ‘Pillfox’. It starts out intense and full of staccato rhythms, then slips into a fat, heavy riff and some sinister-sounding synths, though with Rolo’s trademark quick little blasts of intensity peppered sparingly throughout. It’s a catchier tune than Rolo tend to produce and easily has more hooks; it demonstrates that the band are capable of something more traditional if the mood takes them. Eva provides most of the vocal duties on this one.

Leeds outfit Antares are a touch more generous with two songs. First up is ‘To Youth & Valour’, which like ‘Pillfox’ weighs in at about two and a half minutes. It’s less accessible from the outset, unless you happen to be au fait with ridiculously nippy technical math-metal. It’s full of the bands super-quick fretboard climbs and staccato chords, with aggressively roared and growled vocals laid over the top. There are a few nice hooks embedded into the flesh of this tune, and the production overall sounds fuller than on their mini CD. All of these are changes for the better.

Much the same can be said of ‘Zanussi vs. Ant’, the band’s second offering: it’s also two and a half minutes long, it’s also full of fretboard walking and insanely tight stop-start rhythms. It actually makes me think of early Rolo Tomassi tunes thanks to all of the crazy fretwankery and disinterest in ordinary song structure; at one point whilst making notes on the MP3s I genuinely thought it was a Rolo song. There’s a particularly nice chorus riff here too, if by nice you mean ‘sinister’ as I do.

All three songs are enticing pieces of music by a pair of bands on great form; I have an inkling that the south should be envious of the Midlands for producing great tech bands like these. Obviously, though, I have to throw in a criticism or two here: I mentioned earlier that there are no liner notes. That’s actually kind of a bummer. Antares have always struck me as having interesting lyrics or themes behind their songs; thanks to the vocal style you have to work to find out what these are, and sans liner notes it’s tricky to do so. I’ve never found myself drawn to explore Rolo’s lyrics in the same way, although given their presence on this split I’d have done so at the same time. Alas, I cannot. Still, it’s the music that takes primacy, and with this 7″ you won’t be left wanting anything except more.

Rolo Tomassi: MySpace | Tumblr

Antares: MySpace | Facebook

Holy Roar Records

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