Rollo Tomasi – He Who Holds You EP

Rollo Tomasi
He Who Holds You EP

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a post-hardcore band from Minnesota (Volante) that served as a reminder that the DC sound is no longer so firmly entrenched in our nation’s capital. Apparently though, the indie rock gods (or Jeff, the caring dictator of Delusions of Adequacy) must think I have a terrible memory, for I am once again reminded of DC’s elastic influence. Rollo Tomasi, a three-piece out of Illinois, have purloined the DC sound for themselves: the shouted vocals, the angular riffs, and the rotating rhythms of the drum’n’bass all come into play here. Fortunately, Rollo Tomasi have managed to tough on a few other influences to make He Who Holds You, their six-song debut EP, somewhat interesting.

Right from the start of the first fuzzy bass line, the DC influences shine brightest. When singer/guitarist Neil Sandler chimes in with an almost note for note Ian Mackaye impression, one wonders if this band will be overly derivative. Well, they are, but as mentioned above, not all from the same scene. Rollo Tomasi’s other large touchstone seems to be that all-encompassing, early 90’s buzzbin band Nirvana. This influence comes in mostly in shredding power chords, the occasional appearance of melody, and the fact that the band does make this music as a trio (a formula normally eschewed by the two-guitar bands of the post-hardcore scene).

So how do the songs hold up? While they’re not necessarily the thrill-a-minute ride of some bands, they’re solid enough to warrant some praise. The jagged riffs and looming explosion of “Route Two” makes it not only the band’s most dynamic song, but their best as well. The opener, “Nightmare Men,” builds a chorus off of a snaky guitar line and a heavy groove. “Eye of Colombo” rides chiming harmonics before morphing into a chugging, nervous passage that deserves the heavy breakdown it eventually gets. Even when Sandler gets a little pretentious with the lyrics (lines like “evil is as evil does” and “I found a new low in my life / malevolent visage finds me at night” are all delivered with a hilarious, unwavering sense of purpose), the guitars on this album sound so good that you hardly care (a real accomplishment considering that the band only uses one guitar).

Rollo Tomasi will not make you run out and sell your Fugazi records. Chances are, they won’t even make you run out and sell your Volante record (which if you are a fan of DC post-hardcore, you should probably own). They do, however, offer some slight variances on a well-tested formula. If you’re a fan of the DC scene, Rollo Tomasi offer yet another reminder that post-hardcore isn’t as insulated as it once was. For better or for worse.