LIVE: Rolo Tomassi / Employed To Serve @ The Waiting Room, London

By Ollie Connors

2015 marks Rolo Tomassi’s 10th (yes, tenth!) year of existence and to celebrate their decade of destruction, the release week of fourth album “Grievances” has been marked by four tiny shows across London, encompassing venues in Camden, Peckham, Dalston and tonight’s destination, Stoke Newington. As soon as we enter The Waiting Room, located below the rather lovely Three Crowns pub, everything about the place screams “sweatbox”. Should be good, then.

Each date of the “tour” has featured a different support, handpicked by the band to represent who they feel are the cream of the UK’s current crop. Tonight is the turn of mathcore mob Employed To Serve, who repay the faith shown in them by the (relative) “veterans” and then some. Despite showing up late, ETS manage to put on a jaw-dropping show; it’s so easy for this particular brand of technical metal to sound sloppy in the live arena, but tonight the Surrey-based quintet are tighter than a gnat’s sphincter.

Vocalist Justine does her level best to battle against an apathetic soundman, but even he cannot put a dampener on the mammoth riffs and irrepressible energy guitarists Sammy Unwin and James Jackson bring to the stage. The centrepiece of début full-length “Greyer Than You Remember” (which is also released in the week the show took place), “Bones To Break” sounds utterly colossal, and their parting shot sees the front half of the room caught in a melée, the “mosh goblins” out in force for one of the most exciting prospects the UK hardcore scene has brought forth in quite some time.

Most bands would find that a tough act to follow, but then, most bands aren’t Rolo Tomassi. The quintet are one of those rare acts that seem to improve from record to record, and “Grievances” is no different, taking a darker turn from the space-prog vibes of “Astraea” and allowing a more malevolent, volatile side to Rolo come to the fore. This is aided by the addition of drummer Tom Fitts, who has applied the style applied in former outfits (Throats, Crocus and Goodtime Boys among them) to augment their atmospheric sound. Cuts from other parts of their discography are just as impressive too, the Spence siblings becoming a whirling dervish during old favourites such as “Oh Hello Ghost”.

The soundman, suddenly springing to life after his doze during the support, ensures Rolo Tomassi, and especially vocalist Eva Spence, sound bigger than this basement can take, and the pit responds in kind. As we emerge sweating, we reflect on what we’ve witnessed down there – the future and the present, two forward-thinking bands who refuse to rest on the laurels, ever changing, ever evolving. Here’s to another decade for the best band in the world named after a cop film baddie, and an act for whom the spoils seem to be for the taking if they take a leaf out of the book of tonight’s headliners.