Posted on July 9th, 2015 (11:00 am) by Magdalene Taylor

UK’s female-fronted mathcore/metalcore group Rolo Tomassi stands out in the way that only a female-fronted mathcore band can, but it’s not as if their precision and penchant for melody wouldn’t do it for them. The Sheffield-formed group have aligned themselves with a DIY ethic and a bent for chaos in line with The Dillinger Escape Plan. The exact genre description of the band has wavered through the years, each time falling within a realm of metal and its branches, but mathcore seems to be the most settled label due in no small part to the band’s manipulation of time signatures. Their latest album, Grievances, continues with the trend of holding to a base mathcore style while pushing onto the edge of something new: this time, there seems to be slight tones of black metal and a heavy use of piano. The outcome is, at moments, crushing and beautiful in a technical sense, but still falls back upon a sound that now feels dated.

While Grievances is primarily an aggressive mathcore album, it occasionally ventures into screamo territory, with just a hint of the gloom that comes from its black metal influences most often expressed in its reliance on similar textures. Nevertheless, the energy and speed of Rolo Tomassi, coupled with their use of metalcore guitars, push this further to the background. It’s this metalcore vibe in particular that seems to hold the album back; opening track “Estranged” provides the first dip into the album as its most mathcore/metalcore song, but lacks a modern feeling for rhythm or melody, like a throwback to Warped Tour seven years ago. Tracks with a bit more melody don’t necessarily shy away from sounding dated, with “Raumdeuter” being reminiscent of Atreyu, who arguably had their best run between 2003 and 2007, and this is obviously not too many years behind today. However, with a genre like metalcore, which is plagued by surface bands that often serve as entry level middle school discoveries, as it did for this writer, it's easy to sound juvenile.

Nonetheless, “Raumdeuter” provides one of the best rhythms on Grievances, highlighted by a distant twinkling of the guitar and a slightly slowed-down drum pattern. As Rolo Tomassi does, a synthesis of screams and singing is used dynamically by frontwoman Eva Spence. “Stage Knives, “Funereal,” and seven minute closing track “All That Has Gone Before” mark high points on the album for similar reasons.

Throughout Grievances, Rolo Tomassi utilizes piano and the occasional string arrangement. In some of these occasions these instruments are coupled with an experimental underlying rhythm on guitar or the soft duet vocals of Spence and her brother, James, who plays synthesizer and assists with vocals, in “Prelude III (Phantoms).” This variation often aids in filling out the sound, but is sometimes overdone.

Grievances has a lot of potential. This black metal tinge opens a new door for Rolo Tomassi, if they keep pushing in this direction. However, ultimately Rolo Tomassi is a mathcore band, though this may be their demise. The album undoubtedly has its strong points, but they’re hidden among that overturned metalcore riff and unnecessarily piano overture.

Track List

  1. Estranged
  2. Raumdeuter
  3. The Embers
  4. Prelude III (Phantoms)
  5. Opalescent
  6. Unseen and Unknown
  7. Stage Knives
  8. Crystal Cascades
  9. Chandelier Shiver
  10. Funereal
  11. All That Has Gone Before
Rolo Tomassi - Grievances
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

57 / 100
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