Release Date: Jun 1, 2015
Record label: Ipecac
Rolo Tomassi have always been a cut above most of the competition. Their schizophrenic sound meant that when they first emerged from the Sheffield music scene they immediately stood out from the crowd, but it’s as they have modified and progressed their sound into less restless territory than the band have really emphasised just how good they are. If debut record Hysterics was Rolo Tomassi announcing themselves with a bang, then Grievances is the more mature explosion that proves once and for all just how good they are.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Since Hysterics, the inaugural polyrhythmic attack dog unleashed by Rolo Tomassi in 2008, the band's effortless transitions between their angelic and feral faces has transcended any line-up rearrangements. After Cosmology was released in 2010, the band underwent major upheaval until each instrument was propped up by a new set of arms and legs.
When I interviewed him a couple of months ago, Rolo Tomassi’s James Spence offered up a startlingly robust critique of the band’s last record, Astraea. “I think there was a feeling that we talked a better game than we actually delivered,” he said, which seems a harsh summation of an album that was lavished with critical praise - particularly with regard to its ambition. John Doran probably put it best, describing the Sheffield five-piece as having “entered a nuclear arms race of progressiveness with their own back catalogue.
With major line-up upheavals in recent years, 2012’s ‘Astraea’ marked a substantial shake up for Rolo Tomassi when compared to their previous records. Though it is a departure again, to describe ‘Grievances’ as returning to their roots in any way would be a misrepresentation of the changes the band have gone through; the riffs and melody lines alone are far removed from what came before, but what has perhaps returned is a greater vigour, a more raw approach that’s reflected in harsher mixes that nevertheless feel less compressed and more dynamic than those for ‘Astraea’. ‘Ramdeuter’ is an early highlight; both technically more simple than their previous work and more atmospheric, it is dynamically more complex than many of their earlier compositions, taking the time to develop ideas and not lean too heavily on stop-start leaps in volume.
Rolo Tomassi founders Eva and James Spence, still only 25 and 26 respectively, are the only survivors from the Sheffield band’s original line-up. The mathcore tearaways have been together a decade now, and monumental fourth album ‘Grievances’ shows no sign of their powers waning. Heralded by the pulverising drums of new member Tom Pitts, inducted into the ranks two Christmases back, it’s on the offensive from the first second of opener ‘Estranged’.
Rolo Tomassi have come a long way in such a short span of years that it is remarkable to remember how blistering they were even in their formative early days. Back in 2008, I saw them play a set in one of the small anterooms of now defunct Leeds venue The Cockpit that was so feral and unhinged it barely seemed real – five young people not yet out of their teens performing with a ferocity that is forever seared into my memory. That ferocity has been duly captured and enhanced over a series of enthralling albums that have lead up to their latest, fulsome release.