UK mathcore icons Rolo Tomassi return with a triumphant and dreamlike album built on daring sonic contrasts and juxtapositions.
ROLO TOMASSI – Where Myth Becomes Memory
[Post-Metal, Mathcore – UK – MNRK Heavy]
The release of Rolo Tomassi’s 2008 debut album Hysterics established them as the UK’s best answer to the emerging mathcore subgenre championed by The Dillinger Escape Plan and Botch across the pond. But from the start, Rolo Tomassi carved out their own niche sound, implementing a dual vocal attack as well as piercing sci-fi synthesisers as a major compositional element. Each subsequent release has seen them evolve and grow their sound outwards to incorporate a broader pallet of influences, with 2015’s Grievances combining the ferocity of mathcore with ethereal gothic grandeur. Their previous full length, Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It was a grand epic, successfully exploring longer and more spacious compositions, dense production and implementing influences of post-rock, synth-pop and even black metal. Following four years on, Where Myth Becomes Memory is born out of tense emotions, following the sudden collapse of their previous label (of which they were the flagship artist), a pandemic, and the weight of expectation to follow up their masterpiece.
The emotional resonance is gripping from that start as ‘Almost Always’ ebbs slowly with shimmering shoegazy guitars, glistening piano, ambient electronics and lead vocalist Eva Korman’s dreamlike singing. It’s a slow-burning introduction that guides you into a world of contrasting soundplay. This beautiful post-rock inspired track then builds into a more feral and heavy cut, ‘Cloaked’, complete with menacing screams, winding metal riffs and double-kick drums. However Rolo Tomassi still juxtapose the brutality so well with a soaring chorus that wouldn’t feel amiss on a Sigur Rós or Holy Fawn song. The splendid ‘Mutual Ruin’ doubles down on this merging of two worlds. An eerie one-note piano key looms like a sample from John Carpenter’s Halloween score, erupting into blistering screamo, and yet the final leg of the song is worlds away, deconstructing itself into slow lounge ambient pop. Eva Korman’s voice has such a perfect elasticity, showcasing a seamless ability to deliver a growling hardcore bark akin to Converge or Oathbreaker one moment, and then equally dazzle with clean singing that isn’t worlds away from Grimes.
For the metal and hardcore kids who still want to smash up their bedrooms to this band, the darker and more cutthroat moments are reserved for the second half of the record, with ‘Prescience’ in particular bursting in with a chugging, off-kilter onslaught of riffs that have a strong Meshuggah influence. ‘To Resist Forgetting’ is a whirlwind of frenzied guitars and spiralling drums. However, Where Myth Becomes Memory isn’t really about circle pits, sweat or high intensity. Whilst those moments do come in good bursts, and are dynamically well built up, the calmer and more thoughtful moments that frequent this record are definitely the most rewarding. Even a heavyweight track like ‘Drip’, finds exciting ways to implement gloomy gothic piano and melancholic balladry. Unlike with most extreme metal and hardcore records, this isn’t the kind of record you recommend to a friend for them to hear how brutal it is, but one people will cherish in how beautiful it is. The closing words of the final track sum it up well – “Eyes closed walking through dreams, I feel something.”
Where Myth Becomes Memory doesn’t sound like a betrayal of Rolo Tomassi’s hardcore and mathcore upbringing, but instead a giant leap forwards that brings their maturing fans along with them. The production and sound design is something truly outstanding and immersive, engineered by Lewis Johns at The Ranch – a go to figure for many British metal and hardcore acts including Employed To Serve and Ithaca. But what this team have captured here is very unique and remarkable – a metal album that sounds so bright, colourful and radiant. I don’t think I’ve ever heard piano implemented so well into the genre, sounding akin to the meticulous ambient soundscapes of Jon Hopkins. Rolo Tomassi are speaking in a sonic language that almost no other heavy bands are even attempting right now. The quintet stand in a league of their own compared to their peers in the same way that Deftones defied their nu-metal upbringing with their landmark White Pony album a generation before. Where Myth Becomes Memory is an emotional, seismic tour-de-force where ironically, the heaviest moments come from the calmest places.
Where Myth Becomes Memory is out now through MNRK Heavy.