Time is a social construct, love isn't.
Listening to ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’ – the diverse, spacious and surreal fifth LP from Rolo Tomassi – is like being submitted to a 53-minute session of schizophrenic musical chairs. Which, honestly, is like saying that a new Tool record will take an aeon and a half to finally arrive: it's just par for the course for these English math-masters by now. But by my non-existent god, Rolo Tomassi have never quite sounded this eclectic, this powerful, this intricate, nor this fucking good as they do on ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’.
Once again recorded at The Ranch in Southampton, much like 2015's solid 'Grievances' full-length, this new album's first three tracks perhaps best summarise the quintet's stunning level of atmosphere and highly contrasting dynamics - arguably the strongest element of Rolo Tomassi’s bat-shit insane sound. Album opener ‘Towards Dawn’ is this low-key and instrumentally airy ambient piece with fluttering vocalisations scattered throughout its serene run-time. The heavenly ‘Aftermath’ follows, and is a swelling, cascading post-rock/shoegaze epic that features their biggest chorus yet as it washes over you in melodic tidal waves. Then there's ‘Rituals’, a blood-thirsty feast of black metal and jagged, careening hardcore that’s as intense as all get-out and is the band at their most cutthroat. This opening trio honestly sounds like either song could have come from three different records or three completely different artists, but the real beauty here is that it all comes from just the one: the always artsy, experimental, progressive and challenging Rolo Tomassi. This is the band hitting a whole new level.
Titled after a poem by American postmodern author Richard Brautigan (the full quote is "One day time will die and love will bury it"), this boundless dichotomy between the bands emotional tenderness and fevered brutality is absolutely key; sometimes showing up multiple times in a single song. For just like the four previous Rolo records, ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’ flies across many genre lines with reckless abandon, like the band's only goal is to rack up frequent genre flyer points; racing between jazz, shoegaze, noise-rock, post-rock, black metal, hardcore and bonafide late-2000's screamo. Despite this scattered and unpredictable nature, it's all cohesive. It's all packaged into a psychotically neat and air-tight mix with a wonderfully clean production palette, reinforcing the instrumental depth and sheer scope of these perfect compositions more so.
Their various moving parts - the talented five members - is what further defines Rolo Tomassi with a sound that's practically theirs to have sole ownership over. (I know it sounds silly, as trying to properly pigeonhole a band like this is like trying to eat the goddamn sun, but just go with it.) Keyboardist/pianist James Spence suitably lends new shining layers to these 10 songs so with his piano playing, with his fitting synth work chopping between bright melodies and noisier, harsher lines of electronic chaos. Bassist Nathan Fairweather makes great use of his impeccably thick tone and violently driving rumblings throughout and at some points, his bass becomes dangerously heavy. Drummer Tom Pitts’ subtler, calmer and groovier drumming parts more often than not erupt into blast beats, massive cymbal crashes and exceptionally busy sections in general, yet with ease and careful control too. Guitarist Chris Cayford’s mathy, gymnastic-like hardcore riffs often recede from this frenzy as his guitar work blooms into lusher, cleaner sounds to help explore moodier textures. And one cannot forget the vicious growls and savage screams from exceptional vocalist, Eva Spence, who when not screaming her head off, her beautiful, angelic singing spearheads any given song's lead; singing that has only gotten better with time, which accentuates her relatable, nervous and yearning lyrics here further.
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This masterful LP flows between its individual ten compositions beautifully so, as Rolo Tomassi become super methodical in songwriting, surgical in setup and delivery, boundless in sound, and magical in impact. Hell, the record's first three songs I mentioned before are living, breathing proof of this major feat about how they all glue together to create these larger cohesive moments. Of course, those are but three of the ten tracks present and Rolo have made every single waking second of ‘Time Will Die...’ more than worthy and necessary.
The first 90-seconds of ‘The Hollow Hour’ are spent slowly building up the song's intro of subtle bass lines, a repeating guitar motif, and brisk ride-cymbal hits, as crunchy staccato riffs and rising drum hits soon flare up like a burning stick of dynamite ready to explode. And once that moment of incendiary fire comes, Rolo transition it coherently through a melodic post-hardcore section, a quieter but really well-layered bridge section, all before sky-rocketing into a climactic end that somehow rivals the heights of 'Aftermath' before it. Elsewhere, the sheer tension of the cultish ‘Balancing The Dark’ is palpable as the song skirts from a jazzy yet ominously distorted intro into their much-loved synth-hardcore tendencies, all before circling back around after that 2010ish reprieve for that uneasy jazzier intro of before to bookend the track nicely.
With it's many blackened qualities and the off-kilter metalcore breakdown that lands in its final moments, ‘Alma Meter’ – which lyrically name drops the album's title – is this release's most discordant chapter. Well, perhaps save for the crushing and downright eerie movements heard during ‘Whispers Among Us’, quite possibly Rolo’s heaviest song amongst their entire 13-year career with pounding drums, borderline-djenty guitars and these low, devilish growls. (Also, quick thing about this album: these aren't the heaviest songs vocally or in terms of tunings you'll hear in 2018 - not least with a new Black Tongue record dropping soon - but a lot of these songs sure do feel like the heaviest songs of 2018 already, and that makes all the difference). The record’s most apparent “kitchen sink” piece is hands down the eight-minute experience that is ‘A Flood Of Light’. Yet unlike the possible future of Vero, this is a scorching success instead of a messy failure as the song shifts from dance-club-like synths into a barrelling sonic flood of every other element Rolo utilize on this spasmodic record; summoning up all three dynamics that opening triptych first displayed earlier. To say that ‘A Flood Of Light’ is an overwhelming and technical standout piece doesn't do it a lick of justice.
The penultimate ‘Contretemps’ begins life out as a soft piano ballad on the back of James’ melodic instrumental strengths and it begets the incoming surges of beautiful crescendos and haunting post-rock sounds that bash like a raging ocean against the ferocious bulkhead of Eva's intensive screaming. It's incredible stuff and it just needs to be heard to be believed. Then, with the vocalist's soprano singing floating over some really pretty and emotive guitar chords on album closer ‘Risen’, as feedbacking distortion loops creep in on the track's space and your own mind, the album concludes in a similar manner to how it first started with 'Towards Dawn'; a quiet, contemplative moment of intimacy that movingly betrays the chaos that's come before and will most certainly start again once this sun fully sets.
From their younger but nonetheless crazier ‘Cosmology’ years (‘Party Wounds’ is still a banger) and the throwback of the ‘Hysterics’ days to now releasing their greatest record yet, watching Rolo Tomassi develop over the years has been simply wonderful. And it now all leads to this career-defining moment, to the sheer achievement that is ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’. But this is not just a watershed moment for the actual band that created it, but for heavy and alternative music that's worth a damn at all in 2018. ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’ is anxious but confident; ambitious but destructive; thoughtful but intense; dissonant but harmonious; and most importantly, just a fucking phenomenal journey. This album is the Sheffield band on the hardest of crack; this album is Rolo Tomassi’s crowning moment - their undisputed masterpiece in every conceivable way. If there's one record that you listen to in this year solely based off of a review of mine, then please - please - let it be ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’.