Rolo Tomassi / Shapes / Soni-Quella
20th January 2010
At just past 8pm it seems like the witching hour as rumbling down in the dungeon of The Flapper’s venue space are Soni-Quella who describe themselves as ‘bi-polar scizophrenic metal’. It soon becomes clear as to how correct this odd definition is as soon as they launch into what sounds like a demonic lurching Terminator that has taken a fatal blow as it automatically reprograms and reboots without warning utilising mind bending time signatures that only the band themselves can seem to keep up with.
The audience that is packed full of hardcore kids seem to be saving their energy for the madness that will be unleashed later in the night but with Soni-Quella being as polished, tight and interesting as they are, their status as the opening act seems to be unfair on them; a quick look online at The Flapper’s listings shows however that Soni-Quella will be returning to headline on February 16th and quite rightly so.
Shapes are arguably one of the finest heavier bands that Birmingham has produced and are certainly one of the most hardworking. Their efforts have resulted in a tight bond with uber-cool label Big Scary Monsters and have got them as far as Japan. Their sky-high ambition and limitless energy tonight reflects this impressive history and surely cements them with a safe future in Birmingham and beyond as they launch into a tirade of massively heavy rage. Storming through a blistering half hour set seems to fly by as Shapes mix things up, down and all the way back round again skipping over pitfalls that similar bands fall into by making prog that isn’t dull, hardcore that isn’t mindless and posing an alternative that isn’t too obscure.
For any one member of the audience near the back, it must be difficult to comprehend that only a trio of acrobatic madmen are thrashing out such a racket. Out of the three headed Cerberus on stage, drummer Gavin Filmer is simply great to watch as he flicks off his glasses without so much as a rhythmic stutter during the opening number and continues to dazzle with impossibly fast beats as his arms blur and flail like spaghetti on a cocktail of illegal substances. The lads don’t appear to need any such inspiration though as they’re fuelled completely on kick-ass riffs and pure energy with ‘Our Children’s Children’ standing out as a particularly excellent demonstration as to just how talented these cats are and to what lengths they can stretch themselves to. Exerting themselves with such mammoth tracks and energy, guitarist Steve Bachelor appears to wrench the life straight from his guitar temporarily with his mad riffs in the middle of the set, although no one seems to notice or care as bassist Buckley holds the line with dirty and heavy bass hits.
After a suicidal looking roadie line checks for Rolo Tomassi, there is a clear sense of expectation in the air as the rooms begins to fill again and after what seems like an eternity later, the Sheffield quintet shuffle on stage in the dark. To the unwitting spectator you might be forgiven for thinking that in passing, Eva Spence is nothing more than a sweet and quiet little young lady, but on the right side of a microphone she is an unstoppable force that is equally baffling and awesome and looks like something fresh out of The Exorcist – although no amount of holy water can bring this screaming and spitting demon back from Hades.
RT are a perfect culmination to the bill tonight as they combine the instinctive and raw energy that Shapes exhibited with the more whacky and interesting styles that openers Soni-Quella adopted. An unfaltering rhythm section keeps the good ship Tomassi chugging along even if they are somewhat nondescript and seem to meld into the dodgy decor as the Spence siblings cannot help but take all the glory. The long wait for them to make it on stage as well as them simply not being able to match the power of Shapes does however show them up as slightly lacklustre. One kid moshes right from the outset which soon enough prompts a mass freakout as the kids who were worrying about their hair and checking their phones during Shapes suddenly throw away their teenage inhibitions and go wild which more than makes up for RT’s minor exhaustion from touring.
Miss Spence does pipe up between songs and mention that she isn’t feeling too well while also asking if the lights could be turned down a little bit which prompts ‘awww’s’ from the audience who had been moshing the place to the ground just seconds before. This simply works to increase the bizarre and unorthodox nature of the band as Spence’s brother James who screams just as well as she does, makes even the synths seem badass. A particular highlight of the set is ‘I Love Turbulence’ that brings out the blinding lights and searing darks of a band who seem to be blossoming at a time when heavier progressive and hardcore music seems to be going through a slightly quiet patch.
All in all, another stellar night from Birmingham Promoters with an interesting and well considered lineup leaving many sweaty and intense young men and women with something to keep their ears ringing for another few weeks.