Review Summary: A rollercoaster ride of thrills, spills and kills.
Rolo Tomassi are a young band – a very young band in fact. Their youth belies their sense of musical direction and ‘maturity’. With an average age of 19, they are only just old enough to legally drink (only on my side of the pond, mind), and vote but they are already mature enough to make an album that is incredibly creative and at times, very thoughtful. Having been a band for four years now, they have carved their own niche in the UK underground with their abrasive brand of grindcore-hardcore-electro-indie punctuated with spastic jazz freak outs. Not metal enough to be Dillinger Escape Plan; not electro enough to be Genghis Tron; they are their own band – Rolo Tomassi. Their youth gives potential for a long and successful career, and are most certainly a band to look out for in the future. However, more importantly, given the quality of their debut album, ‘Hysterics’, Rolo Tomassi are worthy of your attention right now.
Musically, ‘Hysterics’ is comparable to riding a rollercoaster blindfolded. It twists and turns seemingly randomly, but at the same time flows pretty much seamlessly from section-to-section. Part of the fun of it is that the album is composed with such happy abandon that you can never tell when a song is going to explode violently, or extinguish itself calmly. At times it can be a little too abrupt, but the delightfully odd sounds of ‘Abraxas’
is too wonderfully weird to not enjoy. Starting with a section that vaguely resembles a metalcore breakdown, the song changes tempo and, apparently, time signature several times throughout the song. In theory, this should sound like a horrible, sprawling mess – the whole album should
- but it doesn’t. The synths bleep away happily as vocalist Eva Spence (a girl) delivers guttural roars, as well as opposing airy vocals, and the rest of the band maintain the chaos of Rolo Tomassi’s sound.
Elsewhere, the minute long ‘Trojan Measures’
has a house of cards effect, as it appears that any given moment amidst the menacing screams, finger tapping of the guitars and jazzy-metal style drumming the whole thing should fall apart. It changes time signature countless numbers of times, and logic dictates that band members should not be able to keep up, let alone make the song so good. The whole album has an undeniably youthful energy to it that at times such as the schizophrenic ‘Fofteen’
is irresistible. Alternating between music violent enough to kill someone to and the kind of lounge jazz you would expect to hear soundtracking ‘The Sims’ the song is a whirlwind of musical activity.
By and large the album is savagely brutal, vaguely resembling Dillinger Escape Plan, if they were fronted by a petite young woman rather than one of the most muscle-bound men on the planet. Mind you, don’t let Eva’s slight, and may I mention cute, appearance mislead you, as her vocals are rough and visceral as any male vocalist’s. However, some of the best sections of the album, and in the case of the solemn, yet sinister ‘Macabre Charade’
, best songs on the album are more laid back. The song transitions unexpectedly from slow, sombre jazz that sounds vaguely improvised before rearing its ugly head with a snarling metal outro. While Rolo Tomassi generally excel at the more subdued sections of the albums 11 tracks, they fail with album closer, the 14-minute ‘Fantasia’
. At times the band craft genuinely relaxing, dreamy passages but its overly long time span is its downfall. It is far too incoherent for its own good and would have benefited from being broken up into 5 or 6 shorter tracks.
With age on their side the future is looking bright for Rolo Tomassi. ‘Hysterics’ is a great start for the band, one that they can certainly launch a successful career from. Not only is the album well executed, but the ideas and creativity that went into it are very impressive indeed. While at times (‘Fantasia’, ‘Nine’) they can be too abrupt and incoherent for their own good, ‘Hysterics’ is, generally speaking, a thoroughly enjoyable album. So then, Rolo Tomassi – definitely one to watch for the future, although, it has to be said that currently they are an exciting band who deserve your attention.