Rolo Tomassi, Pupil Slicer and Heriot at Mama Roux’s Birmingham (Feb 2022)

For many fans and musicians alike, it has been far too long since the last opportunity of attending a live metal show. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is seemingly having less of an impact on live performances, (though is by no means out of the picture) we can finally feel somewhat safe in witnessing artists on tour. The hardcore and extreme side of music has been thriving exponentially during the recent downtime, and a band that encapsulates this success is undoubtedly Rolo Tomassi. After nearly twenty years of riff service they have released their abrasive yet serene seventh album ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ earlier this month. The band are currently touring the UK to support the record, bringing with them some of the most exciting new British groups in modern metal: mathy powerviolence from London’s Pupil Slicer and unrelenting heft from Swindon-based sludgy metallers Heriot.

Mama Roux’s is a small, intimate venue, and a perfect fit for the ensemble of bands. Post-pandemic, there is a distinct sense of unity amongst not only the musicians performing, but the crowd too. The atmosphere was palpable, and genuine joy filled the space in a consistent supply. Granted, it set a rather stark contrast to the utterly pummeling cacophony of heaviness that each band exhibit, but it invoked an overwhelmingly positive precedent throughout, and made for one of the best metal shows to witness so far this year. 

First up were Heriot, a band that is already being critically lauded after merely releasing just a handful of singles, and the positive reception is certainly well-deserved. Sonically, the group stand out from the crowd, harbouring a unique industrial crunch with their basslines and an abundance of thrashing, speedy death metal riffs that turn doom-laden in a moment’s notice. Dual harsh vocals cut through the noisy barrage, exerting a devilish feel to Heriot’s sound. Showcasing great instrumental and vocal ability with complex solos and soaring screams, which are further bolstered by tight performances and a foreboding stage presence. The group is a spectacle and their forthcoming EP is definitely one to look out for, if their last release, Coalescence is anything to go by.

Pupil Slicer followed suit, taking a sporadic, technical approach but with just as much merciless extremity, showcasing intricate musicianship at every passage. Likened to the ilk of The Dillinger Escape Plan or Converge, the band ferociously blister through their set with an intense, spontaneous urgency, whilst peppering in occasional ambient melancholia. Guttural vocals are strained and unbridled, adding to the intensity of ever-evolving drum patterns and disparate time changes. The group are riding high off the back of their recent album release, ‘Mirrors’, and tracks off of it such as Wounds Upon My Skin and Stabbing Spiders sound even more violent in person, leaving no doubt that the group should be revered as a direct reflection of their inspirations, doing so with an aggression and drive that reinforces those initial foundations, and pushes them even further forward.

Rolo Tomassi ended the night in glorious yet chaotic fashion, storming through tracks from across their now lengthy discography with a heartfelt respect for their fans and their position. The group have worked hard at their craft for years, and have become household names in the modern extreme metal scene. Their ability to marry beauty with visceral heaviness is astounding, rapidly punishing listeners with sheer brutality, and at other points performing in a way that is calm and ethereal. There’s impressive vocal flexibility at the forefront, which is backed by haunting keys, lofty blackened guitar and inspired drumwork.

The group have a back-catalogue as thrilling as it is extensive, leaving no room for any kind of stopgap between tracks on stage, and making for a set that was utterly stacked, whilst still conveying the band’s evolution and progressive nature. Stand-out tracks of the night included new additions like the relentlessly immediate Cloaked and Labyrithine, the slower, more dramatic and serene Closer, and a mighty finale of Aftermath, from their 2018 record ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’. The set expressed the band’s evolution over the years as well as the unique variety of sounds that they have compiled and become renowned for over their tenure within the scene. 

They made their love for their fans clear, thanking them for the support given over nearly two decades, and ending the night in a way that felt wholesome and gratifying. The tour feels like a much-needed shot of adrenaline after a rough few years for live music and the metal community, and is a pure celebration of the UK extreme metal domain at its grassroots, showing that it is now stronger than maybe it has ever been and is in more than capable hands going forward.

Words by Ash Edmonds

Images provided by Matt at https://www.instagram.com/hekmatsphotoworld/

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