Do you know Rolo Tomassi? Sheffield-based spazzcore band with a L.A. Confidential inspired moniker? Surely it is more than a coincidence that this James Ellroy-referencing band’s first track on their debut EP was titled ‘Film Noir’. Rolo Tomassi are all about connections, about sewing different elements together to create something more substantial. That is generally how an album is supposed to work, 40-something minutes of music coalescing together to create a greater whole, to be more than a bunch of interchangeable singles and tracks. Is that something that new album Grievances achieves?
First single ‘Stage Knives’ is a traditional Rolo Tomassi release choice, aggressive, schizoid with a mildly calm middle section; its structure similar to Cosmology’s first single ‘Party Wounds’. The other track that has been released thus far from the album is ‘Opalescent’ which is the complete opposite – double time jazz drums, keyboard-focused and Eva Spence’s heavenly Elizabeth Fraser vocals are primarily used instead of her default roar. Where some of their songs seem to be a process of stabbing you with various obscure time signatures, guitar and keyboard riffs, ‘Opalescent’ is all about tension building before unleashing a euphoric final release. This is what make Grievances differ from past efforts, it revels in its calmness, so that when the few “heavier” songs appear they have a greater impact.
Causality is part of Rolo Tomassi’s connection game-plan. Previous albums have began with a slowburning, passive song like ‘Oh Hello Ghost’ so that the ensuing violence has greater resonance – ‘I Love Turbulence’ is pretty great on its own, but foreshadowed by ‘Oh Hello Ghost’ is breathtaking. The key is combining light and shade. Grievances differs from the formula, beginning with ‘Estranged’, full-tilt math-metal from the start, it feels like we are missing a piece but it soon becomes apparent that this is Rolo Tomassi inverted, the light has before the shade and vice versa. Continuing with the theme of connections, leitmotifs pepper the album, piano chord progressions reappear half an album later giving instant familarity (or deja entendu). The band are now not limiting influences to their genre: as well as their aforementioned jazz experiments the addition of post-rock and splashes of OK Computer-era Radiohead, the album at times resembles a Christopher Nolan soundtrack.
Not to say that extreme music is not still an influence, the first thirty seconds to ‘Funereal’ is a mirror image of Deafheaven’s ‘Dream House’, which its shoegaze reverbed guitar, blastbeats and Eva’s trademark vocal, before changing direction. Always changing shape, never standing still, this is why the band are such an interesting listening experience. Rolo Tomassi always made most sense as a live band, because what they do is so visceral, visual and just plain odd. Grievances succeeds at being a cohesive piece of music, something that has flow, is more than just a bunch of left-field turns and timing switch ups, something as satisfyingly cathartic as Jane Doe, Relationship of Command, or any other modern classic you want to throw out. Rolo Tomassi have been a band for ten years now, no longer the teenaged kids with a Dillinger Escape Plan obsession, they are now the band with obsessive copyists. As the towering skyscraping ‘All That Has Gone Before’ closes the album ask yourself: Do you really know Rolo Tomassi?