1st June 2015 – Holy Roar/Ipecac Records
03. The Embers
04. Prelude III – Phantoms
06. Unseen and Unknown
07. Stage Knives
08. Crystal Cascades
09. Chandelier Shiver
11. All That Has Gone Before
Appearances can be deceiving. Since their inception back in 2005, Rolo Tomassi have been confounding expectations by appearing to be a clutch of fresh-faced upbeat hopefuls, then launching into some of the most caustic and difficult mathcore imaginable. With their fourth full album Grievances, however, the band have reigned themselves in a little to produce the most straightforwardly listenable album of their career to date.
Nevertheless, opening track “Estranged” makes perfectly clear that even with Rolo Tomassi’s spikier edges smoothing themselves out somewhat, Grievances is still not an easy ride. The similarities between the progression of their sound and that of previous touring buddies is undeniable, and “Estranged” follows in the footsteps of the likes of “Panasonic Youth” or “Farewell Mona Lisa” in clawing straight for the jugular from a standing start.
Whilst Grievances is still characterised by their furious, spasmodic acrobatics, it is more frequently punctuated than ever by calmer moments, and a surprising number of positively beautiful ones. “Ramdeuter” has a touch of a Poison The Well vibe, “Opalescent” heads deep into post-rock territory, and “The Embers” wouldn’t sound completely out of place on a Dog Fashion Disco album.
Principal vocalist Eva Spence spends almost as much time singing in disarmingly dulcet tones as she does shrieking like a woman possessed, often trading lines with keyboard player James. In turn, those keyboards add an extra layer of discord to Chris’ guitars for additional crunch, and often give off the vibe of a somewhat demented fairground ride, but with none of the twee-ness that might imply.
Grievances comes to a positively glorious conclusion, with final track “All That Has Gone Before” packing an enormous outro, with Eva’s vocal (“I am nowhere, there is no glory in this air”) soaring over the expansive riffs.
There is a chance that some longer-standing Rolo Tomassi fans may feel a moment’s disappointment that the band have reigned in the chaos of their previous outings somewhat, but at the same time Grievances could equally prove to be a key to unlocking a back catalogue that, for many, was virtually impenetrable.
Either way, Grievances is a mature, varied and distinctive record that thoroughly deserves its spot in the illustrious Holy Roar and Ipecac Records pantheons. Rolo Tomassi have paid their dues, come of age and produced a genuinely essential listen in the process. Exciting times.