Apologies for the review drought. Exams are now over. Rejoice.
Rolo Tomassi are a very unique band. Not only did they sound like a rabid dog mauling Mario to death but somehow with guitars, but they did this while looking like the indie-pop band you see in your local ‘expensive pub’. Sure there were some Nintendo-core flavoured immaturities, but upon closer inspection there was a layer of subtlety that made them consistently rewarding. But unfortunately for them, the band’s hype seemed to enter a decline as they moved into less ‘wacky’ and more mature territory. The gimmicky synthesisers and hulking breakdowns lost favour to boring old ‘songwriting’. What a tragedy.
It’s on the new record, Grievances, that the band actually start to sound a little more like the Topman models they look like and a little bit less like the mathcore misfits they used to sound like. As the title might suggest, they’re sounding gloomier and more depressed than ever. This more sombre approach might sound a little unappealing to some. An undeniable amount of the youthful energy and sense of fun that characterised earlier tracks like ‘I Love Turbulence’ has definitely been usurped by their desire for subtlety and atmosphere. And whilst it a little sad to see them abandon this side of their sound, they just sound so much more comfortable this time round.
It’s not like they’ve totally lost their bite though. ‘Stage Knives’ and the viscous opener ‘Estranged’ is just as abrasively chaotic as any of their older material. An thanks to some masterful pacing, these heavier tracks don’t sound out of place either. Every song here has a similar sense of angst and foreboding nihilism that stops the quieter tracks from sticking out. Take ethereal ‘Crystal Cascades’ for example. It’s much quieter than pretty much anything the band have ever released in the past. It’s a slow, reverby lamentation over weepy violins and a thick guitar/synth drone that really tugs on the tear-ducts (metaphorically of course, that’d be pretty horrific). It sounds more like a short Godspeed You! Black Emperor style number than something you’d typically attribute to Rolo Tomassi.
The band show-off a whole myriad of influences throughout. The gorgeous piano led ‘Opalescent’ sounds like an (unfortunately) brief bit of post-rock, but with light jazzy drumming. There are your more typically Dillinger Escape Plan worshipping tracks too, and they sound just as manic as ever, but honestly the band sound best when they’re at their most experimental and unpredictable. Other tracks show off a truly inspiring level of balance between the experimentation and heaviness. The suitably mournful ‘Funereal’ all the suffocating misanthropy and blood-curdling vocal savagery that you never knew you wanted, whereas ‘Raumdeuter’ tangents unpredictably between tangled mathcore riffs and epic keyboard sections without ever feeling like a messy slap together of ideas.
Essentially, Grievances is the sound of Rolo Tomassi mastering their sound with the finesse of a band way beyond their years. It’s experimental and rhythmically awkward throughout, but somehow not obtuse and difficult to listen to. Anyone who likes their music a bit on the weird side should make listening to this album a priority only surpassed by breathing.
Highlights: ‘Opalescent’, ‘Estranged’, ‘Funereal’, ‘Crystal Cascades’
Similar to: The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Chariot, Iwrestledabearonce