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Rolo Tomassi Where Myth Becomes Memory Album Art

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Album Review: ROLO TOMASSI Where Myth Becomes Memory

9 Reviewer
Score

It’s hard to get mad about Rolo Tomassi lessening their hectic skronk over time, considering how well their more euphonic albums have turned out so far. 2018’s Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It found the British stalwarts branching off from mathcore in favor of dreamy melodies and ambient textures. The album highlighted the perks of having a powerhouse singer and a keyboard wizard backing up a strikingly diverse rhythm section—and paved a new path for Rolo Tomassi. That said, Where Myth Becomes Memory isn’t so much a continuation of Time Will Die as a doubling down on this band’s recent stylistic tangent.

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Rolo Tomassi wastes no time in showcasing Myth's subdued side, as opener "Almost Always" clearly exemplifies. It wades in an ocean of shimmering guitar drones on a raft of Eva Korman's delicate singing voice. The song's spacious, passionate build-up embodies the likes of Lantlôs and Alcest. It's a far cry from Rolo Tomassi's mathcore roots, but "Closer" shows the band's confidence in pursuing these balming sonics. James Spence's light-footed piano chords founds the song in a Valtari-era Sigur Rós feel, as a bouncy bass drum pulse guides its expansive soundscape to a harmonious chorus and an overwhelming climax of dancing piano arpeggios, explosive percussion and massive guitar chords.

Rolo Tomassi certainly flirts with post-rock more than ever, but the singles "Cloaked" and "Drip" reassure that the band can still hit hard when it counts. Though still interspersed with mesmerizing melody and nuanced ambience, the former comes through with a skull-caving main riff, as well as agile fretwork and battering double-kick rolls. It's more grid-locked than Rolo Tomassi's spazzed-out past, but good luck keeping up with drummer Al Pott as he disguises a quarter note triplet as the latter cut's four count. Korman's scream sounds as menacing as ever, complemented by the unforgiving shredding of guitarist Chris Cayford and bassist Nathan Fairweather, but there's always room for keys and haunting singing in the fray.

The magnitude of Rolo Tomassi's musicality is matched only by how precisely each element shines through. Spence's piano performances remain a particular point of interest. Whether he's repeating a single note to start "Mutual Ruin," or closing it out with complex modulations, the audible creaking of the pedals and the hammers hitting the strings adds a roomy, proximal quality to balance out the song's chaotic riffage and swelling melodies. In this way, minimalist balladry of "Stumbling" actually transcends the pointless interlude pitfall, because piano is a hallmark of the whole album, not a superfluous ornament. The authentic emotion shared between Spence and Korman arguably reaches peak potency in this fleeting respite from the action.

This isn't to say that the dissonant strains and punishing distortion of "Prescience" doesn't stand on its own. The song's soul-rending sounds remains tremendously gratifying, but its syncopated chugs and break-neck percussion pack more punch than anything found in Time will Die. To that effect, the violent grooves of "Labyrinthine" would give many early 2000s metalcore bands a run for their money. Even then, nothing is ever cut-and-dry for Rolo Tomassi. The depth of their arrangements manifests at their most savage, and their most accessible. There's always an extra synth layer, vocal melody or polyrhythm to keep things interesting, beyond jarring dynamic shifts. 

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Genre-bending aside, Rolo Tomassi is more than the sum of its parts. The bulldozing guitar tone and unrelenting rhythm changes of "To Resist Forgetting" don't just kill time before the serene meditations—or vise versa. The riffs and screams come off as thoughtful as the croons and crescendos, filled with life and memorability. Really, it's executed too naturally for dwelling on the logistics. Closer "The End Of Eternity" flows through its peaks and valleys with tact as well as bombast. Each musician and vocalist adds just the right layer to its mathy post-rock vibe, biding its time for a final surge of unbridled screams, crashing cymbals and euphoric guitar/synth interplay—only to come full circle with, you guessed it, somber piano. While not predictable by a song shot, this album remains remarkably palatable through intuitive vocals, and profound instrumental skill.

While Rolo Tomassi isn't the first mathcore band to try post-rock on for size, they've achieved a particularly natural bridge between the two genres. Having a bullet-proof lineup of payers on deck definitely helps, but it's how features like vocals and keys come together with the primal riffs and beats that makes Myth a real victory. It's clear that Rolo Tomassi can and will stay authentic to themselves while exploring different iterations of their musicality.

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