Review Summary: In the shadows of post metal giants, Rosetta exemplifies all that the genre is and should be. This is energy and experimentation at its finest.
If you have not already familiarized yourself with or at the very least heard of the name Rosetta, you very well be missing out on one of the most powerful bands that post metal has to offer. Following in the footsteps of bands such as Isis
, the Philadelphia four-piece truly emerged in 2005 with their double disc full length debut The Galilean Satellites
. Much like their influences, Rosetta follows a number of the norms set within the genre by touching base on a wide range of dynamics and intensity that spreads from droning ambient passages to mountain-like walls of crushing, forceful sound. While at first glance the similarities may tag them as nothing new, a closer look into the maelstrom reveals that there is something more to be offered here. As much as I dislike whimsically pitching the term, especially within the post metal genre, Rosetta manages not only to set the very definition of the word "epic", but essentially pushes it to greater extents and raises the standards all at once.
In the words of the band themselves, the very sound that is Rosetta is much like "metal for astronauts
". In fact, while it isn't necessarily a concept album by any means, the theme set to The Galilean Satellites
is a story of a man who grows weary of the world around him and leaves everything behind to travel away (to Europa
). With the exception of the final portions of Itinerant
, most of the lyrics are shouted forth with ferocity which at times leaves things a touch too chaotic to make out the said space man's inner dialogue. Along the first disc they do however reveal that the man develops a growing obsession with the moon Europa and finally decides to leave, the anticipation heightening further and further as the disc progresses. Closer to the end of the disc, after eventually finding his way to the moon, the man comes to realize that he has lost everything that he loves in his maddened quest and is now entirely alone.
Remaining on the first disc, the lyrical content is not the only thing that highlights this particular story, as the very opening of Departe
ignites with a massive intensity that sounds much like the explosions of rocket cannons bursting its ship from the earth and out of the atmosphere. Europa
itself seems to burn with a yearning for the moon, a meandering introduction seemingly indicating the growing excitement of the journey and the desperate desire to find its destination. Brutal durations of expanding guitars, thundering bass, steady but fierce drumming and agonized gasping of vocals interweave themselves between interludes that are only slightly reserved but remain in a constant search of climax.
Things quiet down in the middle of the disc on Absent
for a moment with drums that continue to drive forward into the blackness of space and drifting guitars that paint the picture of the seemingly endless void ahead. The momentary pause is only a brief one as monstrous riffs soon find their way to the forefront before dissipating once again. Itinerant
, serving as the longest track on the disc, also finds itself mellowing considerably with violin melodies inviting what the lyrics now indicate as the man's arrival to his new home. Much like the feeling of being entirely alone the track is a much quieter one, overwhelming the senses for the first three minutes or so before again flaring into a bittersweet triumph. The first instance of softer, spoken word is also introduced in the later minutes of the track where the man then begins to come to realize the full magnitude of his decision. Of course, Au Pays Natal
constructs itself as the contemplation of this fact begins to consume and infuriate him, bringing to light that his obsession has not only driven him mad but will also be his end.
The first disc essentially illustrates a perfect musical representation of the theme, balancing between the driven chaos of the search and the somber foreshadowing of the impending isolation. Oddly enough, it would seem that our story had come to a conclusion before even reaching the second half. It also seems that the second disc is mostly instrumental, entering through the droning static and floating ambiance that makes up Deneb
. While the first disc had certainly touched on ambient portions, never were any developed and executed to an extent that is found here. A good portion of Capella
evolves from atmospheric arrhythmic drumming and into a pulsating field of noise. Though vocals finally find their way onto the third track, Beta Aquilae
initially feels more like actually drifting through space than it does any form of ambient metal. The longest stretch comes in the form of Ross 128
where guitars continue on through a wash of echoes and delays, but later ascend to the ringing of cymbals and finally conclude the last few minutes with what may be the relatively quietest moment of the disc. Closer Sol
takes things out beautifully in what could be confused as a Tim Hecker
track if the occasional echoes of shouts and cries were dismissed.
You may be asking yourself why Rosetta opted to include a disc of ambient droning in with one of top notch post metal, especially considering the story has all but come to a close before the second one even starts. One way to look at it is the interesting way in which each of the tracks on the second disc is named after a star (including Sol as the sun). In that regard the second disc could very well be interpreted as the representation of the stars remaining as they always had even after the story has ended. Or maybe it is meant to symbolize the passing of stars high over our main character as he is alone or even supposed to be a metaphor for the loved ones that he has lost. This brings us to one of the more fascinating aspects of The Galilean Satellites
While listening to the record, perhaps you would take notice of the fact that both discs last for about an hour's duration. If you paid even more attention you might even recognize not only that both discs offer five tracks, but that each track on either disc is also nearly identical in length as its counterpart on the other. This is because the discs were recorded with the intention of playing them both simultaneously to experience the full extent of the sound. In this regard it is easy to see that disc two, as it was named after stars, was meant to set the ambiance and act as the surrounding space throughout the story while disc one served as the man and his ship striving for his new home.
Apart from each other both discs are fantastic examples of quality post metal, but when placed together they create some of the most expansive, brutal, and explosive musical imagery that not only rivals some of their peers but goes much further beyond. The first two tracks including Departe
no longer just suggest the idea of setting off into the emptiness of space but actually capture the sensation of the ship in each of its stages. The increasingly powerful take-off, the nail-biting unease of the ascension, and the furious struggle through the atmosphere and into the depths are all here. Each moment is made infinitely more dramatic and visual than it was before as the listener is constantly immersed in not just a wall of sound, but rather an entire expanse of it.
Naysayers could easily claim that something of this magnitude could just have easily been done with one overlayed atop the other all in one disc. If that had been the case, much of the novelty of this release and the raw energy that comes with it could have easily been diminished and cast aside as just another post metal album. The splitting of the two into separate entities creates a unique listening experience as well, in the sense that one could easily listen to the first disc for some hard hitting, epic music and in turn listen to the second for a purely ambient-oriented approach. However neither of them apart can even begin to match what monstrous offering that results when they are placed together. The Galilean Satellites
stands out not only because of its unique approach but also because the execution here makes even some of the post metal veterans look like beginners. This is a must
have for any fans of metal. However, all you need to really appreciate this in full is an open mind, a means by which to play the two discs, and perhaps even a preparedness to be overwhelmed.