The past thirteen years and five LPs have seen Rolo Tomassi evolve from erratically fever-dream mathcore (or whatever term we use nowadays for angular, frantic, scale-sprawling compositions) into more focused-yet-sparse experimental territory; the white, empty space becoming just as important as the 100-notes-in-ten-seconds flurries. The changes and restraint were evident on previous LP, Grievances, with tracks that delved completely into a variety of areas with a clear path and trajectory whilst avoiding predictable decisions. Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It follows in a similar manner, but the path has become somewhat unclear, with some of the musical decisions throughout the record being hard to follow even on a fifth or tenth listen.
If there was a way to sum up the entire record’s struggle, it would be by looking at the compositional decisions on ‘The Hollow Hour’. Everything individually is brilliant, whether it be the opening minimalist guitar, keyboard and bass melodies and the cohesion between them, Eva Spence’s continuously impressive vocal work that treads effortlessly between biting and ethereal or Lewis Johns’ ever enjoyable production work. But, as a whole, with everything pieced together in the track as it is, it’s simply too busy and indecisive. Somehow Rolo Tomassi have created a completely cohesive balance between every element, except the compositional structures, and in turn, Time Will Die… feels more like a collection of rapidly fleeting ideas than the ten tracks before us. That being said, “filler” tracks or moments aren’t an issue here, with a considerable amount of the album’s moments being the strongest Rolo Tomassi have crafted in their thirteen years.
There’s an irony in that ‘The Hollow Hour’ opens with a muddiness of components, yet the closing two minutes couldn’t be more reflective of Rolo at their finest – a beautifully straight-forward melody, with brilliant drum work from Tom Pitts, and Spence’s dual vicious/delicate vocals to top it off. To contrast, lead single ‘Rituals’ opens with quaint keyboard before swiftly moving into distortion, angular riffs, and unrelenting, rolling drums for the following three-and-a-half minute runtime. The clarity while maintaining a consistent, controlled frenzy throughout is more than impressive, with that same jagged, left-field approach fuelling ‘Alma Mater’ throughout, and it’s all the better for it.
It’s not that Rolo Tomassi are incapable – their prior work says more than otherwise, and quite frankly, not much has changed on Time Will Die… – it’s simply down to the core elements. Taken apart and digested as the separate, fleeting moments that they are, these are enjoyable musical decisions that stand up to previous work and absolutely display why Tomassi have been regarded highly for over a decade. But together – regardless of quality – these are ideas and directions that should have been given room to breathe over two LPs rather than forced together on one.
Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It is out now via Holy Roar Records.
Words: Bill Waters