LIVE: Rolo Tomassi, Pupil Slicer, Heriot @ Oval Space, London

By Dave Stewart

Rolo Tomassi have gone from strength to strength over the last few years and their popularity is arguably the highest it’s ever been right now. After their stunning and critically acclaimed album ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’ wowed fans and critics all over the globe, and their brand new record ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ put on a repeat performance, they just seem to be climbing forever upwards.

The insanely long queue for tonight’s show, which stretches all the way down the road from Oval Space and around the corner onto another street entirely, cements their immense popularity status with everyone discussing how much they love the band and how stoked they are to be here tonight. Once we finally make it inside the doors, that excitement hit the ceiling. With the band’s own ‘Where Malt Becomes Memory’ beer (which is bloody delicious, if you were wondering) filling the fridges behind the bar, a huge aircraft hangar-like venue as a setting and a room full of avid fans, you could feel the electricity in the air in anticipation of everything that was about to happen. This is going to be one hell of a show.

Hotly-tipped up-and-comers Heriot kick off the evening in the most abrasive way possible, flooding the senses with walls of heavily distorted sludge and feral vocal rage. There’s something so alluring about their sound, and the punch feels reminiscent of Code Orange – intense and unhinged in places – and the onslaught makes all the adrenaline in your system bubble furiously beneath the surface. Closing song ‘Cleansed Existence’ makes the biggest mark, getting impossibly heavier as it progresses, creating a crater of flailing limbs in the centre of the room. They set the bar so high for the evening and prove that all the hype surrounding them is worth it. They’re going to EXPLODE this year.

Next up are noise masters Pupil Slicer, whose terrifying 2021 debut album ‘Mirrors’ got countless heads gazing in their direction in awe of their math-metal assault. The first few songs of their set sound a little scattered and messy but after they get themselves warmed up, the tone of the set changes entirely. From that point on it’s calculated blow after calculated blow, dissonant stabs and thick riff jabs clocking you square in the jaw from every angle and leaving you bruised and confused. The performance they put on is chaotic and restless, just as you’d expect it to be, mirroring their music perfectly and adding that extra layer of finesse to their set. A slow start but by the time they reach ‘Wounds Upon My Skin’ they are a well oiled killing machine.

Ahead of Rolo Tomassi’s set, you can feel the static electricity in the room as everyone eagerly anticipates their approach to the stage, itching for the lights to come down. What will they open with? Will they gently ease the onlooking mass of fans into their pandemonium or open up a big ol’ can of nasty to split the room in two? To the delight of many, they choose option two, kicking off the night with a storming rendition of ‘Cloaked’ that sees pockets of the room burst into mosh mayhem. Launching into ‘Labyrinthine’ immediately after keeps the energy at peak levels, every ominous shift and bludgeoning guitar hit sending ripples throughout the venue. What a way to open the final night of their tour – no signs of fatigue, no notes out of place, just pure feral precision. Glorious.

‘Balancing The Dark’ provides the first breather, but not really. The moments of calm are fleeting, dotted alongside passages of pure melancholic onslaught that rip through the crowd like daggers. A sea of raised fists and a swirl of limbs continues to rage in the middle of the venue and the band keep poking the hive to make sure they don’t stop moving. New tracks like ‘Mutual Ruin’ and ‘To Resist Forgetting’ go down a treat and prompt deafening cheers during their quieter moments, older tracks like ‘Rituals’ and ‘Alma Mater’ encourage pure carnage but the most special moment comes in the form of the beautiful ‘Closer’ that ses the entire room come together in a collective hypnotic state to marvel at the absolute bliss flooding from the stage.

After a performance of ‘Aftermath’ that’s so perfect it could be the album version, they leave the stage and the night feels like it’s over too soon. It’s an epic way to close the set, sure, but there is a hunger in the room rumbling in the background that just needs to be fed. Lucky that the band come back to play a couple more then, right? The intro to ‘Drip’ slowly flades in through the PA and the room opens up once again, the remaining pit-hungry attendees with gas left in the tank preparing for one last hurrah. The ensuing onslaught is just as punishing as everything that has preceded it, every pendulous guitar strum connecting like a wrecking ball to a sheet of glass. ‘A Flood Of Light’ closes out the evening on the most magical note, delicately yet powerfully lulling the crowd into a state of absolute awe as we all try to mentally process what we’ve just seen. It’s so good it leaves the majority of the room speechless, and everyone that isn’t still can’t help but rave about how blown away they are. Simply magnificent.

Nobody leaves Oval Space with a thought in their brain that isn’t one of total amazement or sheer disbelief in what they’ve just witnessed. Rolo Tomassi are on the top of their game right now and looking at their trajectory over the last few years, they aren’t showing any signs of slowing the climb. With a stunning new album and a live show that reduced the majority of tonight’s venue to a stunned silence, they bookended a truly special evening. Three of the UK brightest stars, all in different stages of their career, united by uniqueness and an unquenchable thirst to blow people’s minds. What a night.