Album Review: Halo Tora - 'Omni\One'

I made a mistake the first time I listened to ‘Omni\One’; I popped the record on in the car on my way to work. Three or four tracks in I found myself decidedly underwhelmed by what I was hearing. I put it to one side for a few days before picking it back up again. This time I sat down in my comfy chair with my headphones on and really listened. This is what I would advise you to do.

'Trans/Zero'  the album’s introduction is simply that: an atmospheric introduction, well worth listening to as it forms an integral part of the album as a whole. It sets the stage for what promises to be a melting pot of prog, alt, and post rock stylings. The first song track on the album, 'Permanent Revolution', is an immediate showcase of what this band can do. Consisting of drums, bass, keyboards, and two guitarists-come-vocalists, these are no inexperienced youths searching for identity. Five skilled musicians composing a symphony, Halo Tora are a band in tip-top form. Each instrument plays its part, but none more prominent in the composition than another. The vocals feature a rich selection of harmonies; Ian McCall and Chris both possess lead-vocal-quality voices and use them to their full effect.

'Ruins' progresses the album strongly. Chugging guitars and double-kicks drive you along to another soaring chorus. The track eases out after the second chorus, leaving a delightfully sparse atmosphere between piano, guitar, and bass, before building to the closing. The introduction to next track, 'The Bones that Rock the Cradle', introduces a chilled out musical theme that then becomes the melody of the chorus – a technique that always makes me smile to myself with its clever simplicity. The highlight of this track for me is the call and answer between the two vocalists in the chorus.

By this point in the album, it’s pretty evident that Halo Tora aren’t messing around.
Something of a ballad, 'Tonight' features more of those vocal harmonies that set them apart from a lot of bands. Too often I hear vocalists in alt-rock bands belting out high notes to the point of wailing. What we have here are two voices using their tones and the interplay between them to great effect without straining themselves. No more so than in 'Hangman'. While this is an atmospheric composition that gives contrast to the tracks before it, it is also the most skippable track on the album for me. Still it is a heartfelt song, musically and lyrically very pretty.

Hailing from Glasgow, Halo Tora a good few years gigging under their collective belt, having played shows up and down the UK. They have secured support slots with the likes of My Vitriol and Jamie Lenman (Reuben), and have just completed a headline UK tour. This album has been a long time coming. Having spent over two years planning, demoing and recording, the level of effort is reflected in the quality of the finished article. The deliberate use of light and shade, and the level of each musician’s playing shows just how much thought has been put into ‘Omni\One’.

The impact track I was hoping for when I listened in the car is 'Under the Surface'. After a brief introduction you’re assaulted with a beast of guitars, followed by what it possibly some of the most hauntingly excellent piano I have ever heard in rock music. “Do we take sides…” the chorus is a belter. Just when you think it might be over, this track is the gift that keeps on giving. A long musical interlude towards the back half of the song is testament to this band’s dedication to their sound. This is no radio edit, but a composition of exactly the length it should be. Halo Tora are taking you on a journey, their journey, and you’ll be glad you came. I came.

Four of the last five tracks are rather moody, airy numbers. 'Needles' swells gradually throughout towards the ending. The first single released from the album, some six months, before the record dropped, was 'Age of Terror'. Cue more call and response vocals in the verses taking you to another blinder of a chorus.  Beginning as a stripped back combination of acoustic guitar and vocals, 'The Executioner', shows off more of the talents of both vocalists. As the track really gets going, again Keyboardist Ryan Connery demonstrates why rock music needs keyboards.

'Red X is Mandatory', the interlude before the closing, and titular track 'Omni\One' gives you a moment to reflect on what you’ve been doing for the last 48 minutes or so. The last song on the album is effectively one big crescendo that undoubtedly brings the composition to its conclusion.
All in all, ‘Omni\One’ is a mature piece of music crafted by a group of people who clearly knew what they had to make. There are songs there to listen to over and over, but the album as a whole stands up as a symphony to be listened to in full any time you’ve got an hour for drifting away in.

Words of Samuel Hylands.

'Omni\One' was released 3rd September and is available from all major digital outlets, as well as on CD format.

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