Rolo Tomassi - Astraea Review

Astraea is the third album by Rolo Tomassi and it is their best album to date.

rating: 4.5

In today€™s current climate, it doesn€™t pay to be a university-drop-out-alcoholic-writer in a dead end job. No, in today€™s climate it is preferable and more beneficial to be a university student (again); leeching money off of Student Finance and racking up inevitable debts with the intention of gaining some kind of qualification to see you in employment until retirement and death. As with the ambitiously delusional poet/novelist profession, so too in today€™s current climate a degree is a more potentially prosperous option than that of playing in a band; particularly a band as abrasive and complex as Rolo Tomassi €“ thus arose the departure of original guitarist Joe Nicholson to pursue a career in chemistry. An exit that was soon followed for €˜creative differences€™ by bassist Joseph Thorpe. The loss of two original members, and a degree being a more viable commodity than a set of songs, should shake a band. Not so with Rolo Tomassi. No, instead of taking the hit and bowing out, remaining members Edward Dutton and siblings Eva and James Spence roped in Chris Cayford and Nathan Fairweather to get work underway on a new album. The resulting new album is the band€™s third, but of course first with the new line up, and it is called Astraea. Astraea is the daughter of Zeus and Themis, she is a personification of justice but also of purity and innocence; her name translates into English as star maiden. Astraea is also a genus of sea snails. These are facts (if mythology counts), and what is also a fact is that Astraea is the third album by Rolo Tomassi and it is their best album to date. It€™s been four years since Rolo Tomassi released Hysterics, their debut album, and two years since the follow-up Cosmology; on Astraea the band have matured considerably. Hysterics was all spastic rhythms, abrasive dynamics and youthful insanity, though some considered it weird for weird€™s sake €“ like many consider Heavy Heavy Low Low. Cosmology saw the band expanding and experimenting with their songs; bringing about more atmospherics, longer track lengths and the occasional ghostly clean vocal from Eva. Whilst encouraging it didn€™t quite hit the mark; I went to see Rolo Tomassi live on the strength of Hysterics and bought a copy of the album and a t shirt from Eva herself, I saw them after Cosmology but only because they were supporting The Dillinger Escape Plan, I will be seeing them again as a result of Astraea. With this album the band have fully realized their own sound; whilst they have always very much boasted their own unique sound it is on this album that it sounds fully formed taking in the abrasiveness of their first and filtering it through their more expansive second, and it might sound strange to say but this album is almost accessible. Now, I€™m not saying your suddenly going to start hearing Rolo Tomassi on mainstream radio and bothering the charts €“ this is still by no means easy listening, but the band have developed as song writers and musicians meaning the songs feel textured and crafted now instead of thrown together. Howl for example the album€™s opener builds from deep, layered synths and a repeating and repeating and repeating sequencer before the rest of the band gradually come in drums first and proceed to deliver heavy and thick riffs that change just as quickly as they used to, but now they sound like they€™re supposed to. Ex Luna Scientia is perhaps represents the album best; a harsh on the ears intro of stabs and wriggling riffs, before a section of driven chords and horror film synths, switch these around and then a clean passage of rumbling bass, melodic guitar lines and a fully clean vocal from Eva (if drowned in reverb) that shows the girl can sing too, from here it builds and blends the heavy and the haunting like Devil Sold His Soul do so well. Proving that it€™s not all doom and gloom, The Scales of Balance is one part full throttle math punk, two parts science fiction soundtrack and one part enjoyable nightmare. Again displaying that they haven€™t got too mature for madness, Remancer is one minute and forty nine seconds of adrenaline fired headfuck. Empiresk just goes to show how many ideas Rolo Tomassi can fit into a four minute song and still have it sound coherent; transisting as it does from sparse piano ambience, actually positive sounding progressions, clean vocals, widdly guitar lead, stop start riffs, a groove, riffs that verge on anthemic cock rock and a psychedelic-freak-out jam of an outro. Some albums slump in the second act; not so Astraea. Ushered in with its own private intro in the shape of Predlude II (Echolalia)€™s piano nightmare, it is somewhat of a tour de force boasting the brilliantly visceral Echopraxia, the soaring Gloam that could be a track by The Horrors €“ were it not for the throat shredding vocals, metal riffs and stop-start changes, the idea and transition riddled Illunis and the album€™s epic closer Illuminaire; the sprawling soundtrack to a journey through time and space that verges on post-metal. In today€™s current climate, I might just drop out of university and try to join Rolo Tomassi. facebook tumblr twitter
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Life's last protagonist. Wannabe writer. Mediocre Musician. Over-Thinker. Medicine Cabinet. @morganrabbits