Rolo Tomassi – ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’

By Dave Stewart

Rolo Tomassi are a band that are impossible to pigeonhole into a genre. Maybe once upon a time you could’ve painted them with the mathcore brush, the progressive rock brush, the experimental brush or maybe even the post-hardcore brush, but none of those colours have ever really looked right on them. Rolo Tomassi are a BAND. They make MUSIC. And, as they’ve progressed through the last decade and a half, that music has become more magnificent with every release.

Their 2015 album ‘Grievances’ and their last album, 2018’s critically acclaimed ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’, are amazing records. Both are menacingly dark with flashes of light, the latter spending a lot more time in the light, showing their growth from erratic genre-jumping acrobats to thought-out, detailed storytelling. Four years after their last release they’ve returned with another tale in the form of ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’, offering up over 45 minutes of sheer sonic brilliance that serves as the perfect finale to their unintentional trilogy of albums.

Their unique brand of bedlam has become more and more magical as the years have gone by, and this album sees it at its most refined. Songs like ‘Cloaked’ expertly weave from unnerving terror to ethereal wonder, not snapping from one to the other but carefully navigating between them. ‘To Resist Forgetting’ follows a similar path, only that sense of terror is constantly hovering in the distance waiting for its chance to leap back into the foreground. There’s the towering and venomous ‘Labyrinthine’ and the ominous ‘Drip’ too, the latter wading in murky waters with the occasional flash of hope to distract from the sense of foreboding, and both tracks are equally mesmerising. If you came here wanting a hefty dose of Rolo Tomassi goodness, you’ll find yourself absolutely spoiled, and this barely scratches the surface.

The delicate side of this album is especially beautiful, the music sometimes left so bare that a single instrument occupies all the space to create an alluring vulnerability. The emptiness in those sections is spine-tingling, stripping everything back so much that you can even hear the keys being pressed on the piano. The cinematic ‘Stumbling’ immediately comes to mind, the piano blending with the fragile vocals to create haunting echoes that fill every molecule of space and summon every goosebump in your body. The wonderfully ambient ‘Closer’ does this in places too, flourishing and diminishing in all the right moments like a conduction of emotions, each one getting a chance to stand in the spotlight.

The balancing act is something that they’ve always been good at, be it emotionally or musically, but now it’s almost effortless. A prime example of this is ‘Prescience’, the unrelenting pummelling of which is initially staggering as it’s sections constantly evolve, leaving you unsure of what’s around the next corner or even when you’ll be making a turn. What’s special about this track in particular is that when they strip all the noise away, you still feel uneasy – what you hear is soft and harmless, but you know deep down that you aren’t safe just yet. That grasp on suspense is their ace in the hole, and what it does for this album is incredible.

Opening the record with ‘Almost Always’ and closing it with ‘The End Of Eternity’ is pure genius, by the way. Had to get that in before I stopped talking about the intricacies of the music. For the nerds reading this (hi, hello, I am one of you), the album essentially does a round trip and finishes exactly where it started. The first track fades in and asks questions like “what happens when it stops?” and “what do you do when you’re lost?”, and the closing number says “I feel something, there is no end” before fading out with the exact same tones it began with. It’s a cycle, which ties in with a lot of the subject matter that’s covered throughout, and it adds yet another layer to this already monumental album.

There’s something truly wonderful about the way this band writes music that makes for an almost transcendent listen. Parts of the record thrash and rage like a category 5 storm while others gently ebb and flow in pure tranquility, and the way the band dances between them is awe-inspiring. It’s genuinely mind-blowing to listen to a track from their early days like ‘Party Wounds’, something so unhinged and chaotic, to then listen to this record and hear how elaborate and emotively powerful their music has become.

Rolo Tomassi have cemented themselves as one of the most special bands to have come from our UK scene, and they’ve made yet another dazzling diamond to add to their collection. ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ is simply stunning, and the more you listen to it, the better it gets.

Is it too early to nominate a candidate for album of the year? Maybe, but I don’t care. Why? Because guess what – they’ve gone and made another masterpiece.

DAVE STEWART

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