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The Fall Of Troy and friends impress despite sound issues

The Fall Of Troy Rolo Tomassi CHON tour poster

Despite having seen two of the three bands on tonight’s bill not a week previously – courtesy of Hevy Fest – there was no way I was going to pass up a second chance. Both had lived up to expectation on the festival stage, but a more intimate club setting was likely to hold the real gems, and teaming up with Rolo Tomassi was never going to disappoint. Certainly a night to see every band on the bill.

An abnormal queue size means I don’t actually get in until half way through CHON‘s set. As such, any initial nerves they might have had have already dissipated, and the buzz is palpable. In fact, there’s a group of superfans near the front keeping the energy up – clapping and hollering appropriately – although the bouncy warm instrumental stylings do plenty to encourage everyone.

Bassist Drew Pelisek is charming, interacting frequently, and is clearly appreciative of the reception. For all their personable qualities however, it’s the music that will have won most over. Technically adept, with fingers dancing all over the place and lovely accenting drums, their set is drawn from aptly named album Glow, and it very much feels like Scale the Summit on serotonin. We’d be very surprised if we don’t see these Americans back in the UK some time soon.

Rolo Tomassi could hardly be more different. The young yet experienced British five piece ramp up the energy considerably, but tonally it’s a brash mixture of caustic, Dillinger-influenced hardcore and sickly sweet, temperamental screamo.

The delicate light/dark dynamic of the music – at times caterwauling and black metal-esque, and others relying on just the atmospheric keys of James Spence, or Chris Cayford’s lone guitar and the cymbal-centric beat from the magnificent Tom Pitts – is one of the strengths of Tomassi’s style, but unfortunately the venue’s acoustics are not kind to either aspect. When full-on, Nathan Fairweather’s bass is overwhelming, with only moments where the keys cut through. The guitar struggles in particular, but thankfully Eva’s voice is audible just behind it all. A minor gripe is that her savage screams are shortened into harsh barks, but this is likely in order to inject more power to compete with the other instruments.

Their set is drawn predominantly from recent release Grievances, with “Chandelier Shiver” acting as an intro, although there’s room for Astraea‘s excellent “Ex Luna Scientia” and “Adrasteia” from the Stockades split between the main tunes “Funereal“, “The Embers“, “Opalescent” and the absolutely dominating closer “Stage Knives“, for which the crowd go appropriately mental.

Sound continues to be a problem – perhaps even more so – for main act The Fall Of Troy. Frontman Thomas Erak’s lone guitar is key, throwing complex leads and quickly-changing chords around like a 3 year-old’s with spaghetti. Much of this happens further up the fretboard, and again the muddy sound means the bass smothers much of this, which is quite disappointing. For the uninitiated – of which there are certainly a few around me – all the nuance is going to have been lost. The vocals, too, are often ill-defined, and again this is not in any way a problem with the band or performance, but a reflection on the equipment and venue.

Nevertheless, they battle on, and the energy expelled by the trio practically obliterates any concerns over sound. Each of the trio shows their prowess – beyond just the insanity that is watching Erak shred, sing and scream his way through a set comprised of cuts from the recently 10 year-old Doppelgänger, as well as bits and pieces from their first and third albums – you realise how important the rhythm section are. Not just impressively technical themselves, they provide backbone.

A new – or at least as-yet unreleased – song is played, featuring prominent vocals from bassist Tim Ward, with some satisfying time signatures changes demonstrating that they’ve certainly not lost their flair. Speaking of flair, the band slow down the intro to “Act One,Scene One“, demonstrating it in all its glory, before leading into a full speed, full-on, balls out rendition of the song. It’s quite breathtaking.

Towards the end of the set, both Chon guitarists join them on stage – Mario for “Mouths Like Sidewinder Missiles” and Erick for “Whacko Jacko Steals the Elephant Man’s Bones” – with both returning to aid a stunning rendition of “F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X.“; perhaps TFOT’s best known song.

What is most pleasing to see tonight is that The Fall Of Troy really seem re-energised in their reunion, even 18 months on. I’ve seen few bands this year with the intensity to match the vitality of their own music as well as these three, and it bodes well for the future, and whatever else comes out of TFOT mk. II.