Regardless of whether you love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t deny that Rolo Tomassi are one of the most hard working bands in the UK. Eva Spence’s haunting vocal has been one of the most intriguing and mezmerising of the recent UK mathcore surge, and with ‘Astraea’, the band find themselves at crucial crossroads.
With a largely adapted membership – notably featuring the boundless talent of Brontide’s Nathan Fairweather on bass – the band have much to prove with this record, but there’s no hints here that this fact has escaped them. The scene around Rolo Tomassi has grown in many wonderful ways recently, and as it has many of the boundaries that they pushed previously have come back to meet them. So where next? Well, smashing the ball out of the fucking park if ‘Astraea’ is anything to go by.
Opener ‘Howl’ take two minutes to fully realise, and the unrushed tension of it all makes the beginning of the record feel very much like the awakening of a beast. The following two minutes are unrelenting and brutal, and it’s very clear from this point that Rolo aren’t messing around. From here onwards, flawness dynamics paint the crushing mathcore with beautiful melody, and the soundscapes are the finest that the band have ever dared create.
The sense of urgency throughout the record is staggering – Rolo are clearly as if not more hungry than they ever were and the new additions have given the band a whole new lease of life. Ethereal segments bridge some of the most brutal music that they’ve ever produced, and the instrumentation is flawlessly executed. With all that considered, the most impressive part of it all is that the band have brought a certain tidiness to their trademark mess without dampening the devastating delivery one bit.
Rolo will never be a band for everyone – there’s little doubt that the jarring, jerky hops between styles sit badly with some fans of the heavy and the melodic for different reasons – but as experimental and interesting music goes, the band are still a revelation. ‘Astraea’ is venomous, eye popping rock music, and Rolo Tomassi still put 99% of bands to shame. A wonderful effort and one that should be a late entry to a few of the end of year lists.