Toronto Blessings – ‘Asleep’

By Liam Knowles

You probably wouldn’t peg Barnsley as a hotbed of great alternative music, but over the years it has birthed crusty noise in the form of Errander, filthy hardcore riffs from Cavorts, and good old-fashioned rock and roll from G.U. Medicine. All very different bands, but all pretty much made up of the same people, and it’s testament to the talent in this tight-knit scene that these same few people can keep re-inventing themselves and keep the quality high each time. Toronto Blessings is the latest incarnation of Barnsley’s finest, and the trio of bassist/vocalist Rik Whitehead, guitarist/keyboardist Dale Evans, and drummer Richard Murray have this time focused their energies to deliver a powerful slab of noise punk that’s equal parts danceable and dread-inducing.

The pace of this record is set by opener ‘Hopes//Dreams’, the drums and bass stomping along with urgency whilst the strung-out, wiry guitars swirl under the vocals. Rik Whitehead’s style is unusual; it’s not quite singing and not quite shouting, instead sitting in a wide-eyed, sinister middle ground previously occupied by bands like These Arms Are Snakes and Daughters. The jarring vocal style means that even when they’re playing straight, like on the heavily Drug Church inspired ‘Good News Everybody’, they’ve still got that weird, unhinged aura about them, especially when coupled with the angry, at times political, and often quite personal lyrical content. Luckily this eccentric delivery doesn’t detract from the excellent riffs and infectious hooks, and ‘Asleep’ is chock full of them. The grimy keyboard line on ‘Survival Techniques’ is extremely contagious, and the closing (and title) track, whilst perhaps the darkest track on the EP, is still catchy as hell with a repetitive refrain that’s sure to worm its way into your head after a couple of listens.

The only real criticism is that the EP only really properly lets loose at the end of the last track, and the solid production job gives this huge heavy end section so much power, it would have been nice to see a bit more of that throughout the release. The band themselves have said that the songs they’ve written since recording this are a lot darker and heavier, so we may yet see this minor criticism quashed.

Overall this is a robust release from an exciting new band that you really shouldn’t let fly under your radar. It may be grim up north – but when the soundtrack is this good, who cares?


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