Reviews: Rolo Tomassi and Red Handed Denial

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I stumbled upon these two bands in the span of two days, now you are lucky enough to get them at the same time!

I had some reservations about grouping these two bands into one post, since really the only thing they have in common is the presence of a female vocalist, but ultimately, I think there can be a point to it. As with any single-gender dominated field, there are two major issues: (1) Only half of the potential talent pool ever even considers taking up the task, and (2) a huge perspective gap may be missing. These two bands are taking an innovative approach to their genres, and I think that shouldn’t be overlooked. Before I walk further into a minefield, let’s get started.

Rolo Tomassi

Rolo

This band popped up in my weekly Spotify playlist, and I was intrigued by the calm math-rockish sound of the featured song (“Opalescent”). I saved the band and went back to it later, and was totally confused when I started the album from the beginning. The first three songs are some pretty heavy hardcore, which seemed totally inconsistent with expectations. This band has at least two distinct faces, so only hearing one is a setup to be fooled later.

Hailing from the UK, Rolo Tomassi put out their fourth studio album, Grievances, in 2015. Where their previous album, Astrea (2012) mixed their two-faceness evenly across songs, the new release splits them apart a little more. Vocalist siblings Eva and James Spence share some of screaming duties, and it’s actually pretty difficult to tell who’s up to bat during these sections. It’s probably a little harder to mistake Eva’s excellent clean vocals on the calmer sections, where James is usually focusing on some mesmerizing keyboard and electronic bits.

There’s a heavy punk influence throughout, and experimentation galore. In the math rock sections, the drums are often doing some complex polyrhythmic work and the guitar keeps up and somehow fills the beautifully awkward gaps. Their ability to transition between these two faces and still sound like one frantic/beautiful cohesive whole is their ultimate strength. I can’t stress this enough, LISTEN TO BOTH TRACKS!!!


Red Handed Denial

red

I came across Red Handed Denial while skimming through my bandcamp feed, where a very unexpected Toilet veteran, Jack Bauer, recently purchased their album Wanderer. I clicked play and was immediately blown away. There’s a fair amount of prog djentyness, a dash of metalcore, and a saturation of pure-fucking-fun; three things that I find myself defending a little too often. This group from Toronto reminds me a lot of Destiny Potato, but somehow feel less like a guilty pleasure band (if such a thing exists).

Red Handed Denial released their first EP in 2009 and their first full length in 2013. With this newest release, they have taken great strides in production and memorable songwriting. Every song is catchy (well, except maybe the very pleasant guitar outro track), which leaves me wanting more after a very short album.

Vocalist Lauren Babic has a whole bunch of covers on her youtube page, covering similar bands like Protest the Hero, TesseracT, and Periphery (her cover of Rainbow Gravity is particularly stunning [save your Spencer already sounds like a girl jokes {and go fuck yourself}]).

I am curious to know why there are relatively few sections of harsh vocals on this album, considering she does it often in her covers, but it’s nice to know that it’s something that can be expanded in future albums. The rest of the band, as should be expected in this genre, are all crazy talented and are a key component of the band’s catchiness. No matter how great the vocals are, they won’t do a thing if there’s nothing behind them. Though they don’t break any barriers in the genre, they are very sharp about how to create great music within its guidelines.

I realize this is more of an introduction than an review, since I didn’t really get down and dirty with critiques, but the latest albums from both these bands get a solid 4/5 flaming toilets from me.

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Follow Rolo Tomassi and Red Handed Denial on Facebook, and for the love of all that is holy, don’t be a weirdo.

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