Written by: TL on 13/05/2017 11:15:12

Las Vegas prog-rockers Stolas have arguably been the little brother in the group of like-minded bands that have made up the Blue Swan Records family since their emergence with 2013's "Living Creatures", sounding at home amidst bands like Hail The Sun and Sianvar, yet having not quite built a distinct identity with their first two records. Having now moved on to Equal Vision, they're back with a third, which - to be brutally honest - initially prompts a desire to flatly remark that, well they still Mars Volta just as well as the next gang of Mars Volta-inspired prog/post-hardcore musicians.

"Stolas" has in spades of exactly what you'd expect: Maddening guitar-tapping, winding tempo changes, exotic drum patterns and jazzy bass lines are aplenty. And to Stolas credit, things don't get any more out of control than you still being able to tell the songs apart and pick up curious passages here and there, where you have to hands down admit that this is a creative bunch with the chops to shred out more complex and difficult stuff than most bands.

The lingering question is, does it have a personality? Production-wise "Stolas" is a pretty straight shooting record, with no added adornments to help frame the style or the songs, which leaves it squarely on the melodies and the band's charisma to infect the listener with a desire for repeat listens. And then it's unfortunate that new singer Carlo Marquez performance honestly sounds shrill and small as the centrepiece of the musical landscape. There's always a relation where, the more crazy and impressive your music is, the more convincing your singing has to be to make it feel fitting, and Marquez is just more capable than actually impressive.

It doesn't help that lyrically the album feels a bit paranoid and immature, especially in songs like "Euphoria" and "Metempsychosis". The former in particular, with its cliché rage against pharmaceutics, has the potential to grate on the ears to anyone who knows anyone who's battled through mental issues with the help of some, and where more charismatic rock bands have the devilish power to make you enjoy songs even about viewpoints you don't agree with, Stolas fall short of that kind of charm.

Here then, is the kind of dry, earth-bound conclusion that's everybody hates to read about a record: "Stolas" does have good instrumental chops that will reward listens, but it doesn't solve the band's persistent problem of just not having a very striking personality. It's competent yet derivative, and not really competitive when you consider listening to it or some of the other records the nearby genre-landscape has to offer.

Download: Bellwether, Anecdoche, Maximizer
For The Fans Of: Sianvar, Hail The Sun, The Mars Volta, Closure In Moscow

Release date 17.03.2017
Equal Vision Records

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