Review Summary: Astronomical expansion.
First impressions are not only a tough concept to master, but a bad one is an even more challenging task to mend. A first impression is, in every sense of the word, a legacy that is left behind. It is the imprint an entity, be it a single person or a group of individuals, leave on the world. Sometimes the monument left behind in this attempt to please at first glance is miniscule, rather than monolithic; forgettable, rather than an eternal tattoo on the memory. Rosetta, being one of these entities that took a stand against the daunting odds of just how demeaning a first impression can be, seemed to write a new chapter in the book of making one's entrance loud and well received.
Rosetta's first album, The Galilean Satellites
, while following strongly in the vein of trance inducing post rock, seemed to step just far enough out of the norm to make the imprint that the band intended. Somewhere between having a thought provoking concept, a second disc meant to be played simultaneously to add an extra layer of ambient intensity and a musical style that seemed to revolve around each individual playing off of one each others talents rather than individual showmanship the band found their niche. Making the notion of a first impression seem like child's play one was forced to ask “Where could they possibly go from here"”
So instead trying to one-up the whole second disc idea or throw a wrench in a system that was anything but broken, they decided to expand. While I do believe The Galilean Satellites
was a very necessary entrance into the music world, Wake/Lift
seems to be the band taking their aforementioned niche and adding a second coat of paint.
The record, as with its predecessor, revolves around the concept of repetition and constantly building intensity. The way this release seems to differ from the previous, however, is by adding a bit more variation and melody to the long-winded instrumental segments. While the band's style does teeter in and out of drone music at times (“Temet Nosce”) they fill the gaps with much more fluidity. Each song goes through various shifts in mood and style whether it be “Red in Tooth and Claw” setting the stage with an explosion of riffs, bleeding into the spacey echo of melody, and entering the latter half of the track with a drum and bass driven movement misted with chimes of guitar, or “Lift” being split into three parts of grooving build up, atmospheric mid-section, and metallic climax. Never once in this fusion of soundscapes and musical resonance does the band lose sight of their personal take on a genre built on power and emotion.
As was stated, the band seems to play off of one another, rather than allow any one member to take center stage and steal the show. Armine's vocal style, while performed entirely in a guttural, screaming manner, bleeds a certain type of energy. While he is purposely buried in the mix behind the instruments more often than not, this production choice seems to give the listener less of a connection to the lyrics and more of a connection to the way the lyrics are being portrayed, which is a novel take on what is all too commonly known as a band's “front man”. Armine, while still feeding the listener the lyrical message, is utilized as just as much of an instrument as the other members, especially with his aptly titled position as the band's sound manipulator, giving the music something of an environment in which it can roam, like the setting of a story. Almost giving constant compliment to the concept of space, Weed's guitar riffs seem to accentuate something of eternal size, but he never misses an opportunity to take a step back and allow his guitar notes to give light to something of an expanse between all of the sounds at play. The backbone behind all of this is an infallible rhythm section between the rumbling bass themes of Grossman and the busy, and often minimalistic, drum work of McMurtrie. While it's quite common for a casual listener to become overly involved in the voice in a piece of music, Rosetta employs each member as a separate, yet equally necessary, gear in this robust machine.
As a machine, the general flow of the album is set up (despite my concern of using subjective vocabulary) flawlessly. As stated earlier, “Red in Tooth and Claw” opens the record with a blast, and melts directly into the three distinct parts of “Lift”. From there, “Wake” keeps us grounded in Rosetta's heavier accessibility while throwing in an abundance of uplifting accents to the already massive sound. As that track bleeds out of existence, we're lead directly into beautifully necessary “ Temet Nosce”. While some might consider it too redundant to be thoroughly enjoyed, as it is composed of a minimally rephrased guitar riff backed by sporadic, distorted drumming, I see it as something of a center piece that distinctly separates the powerful, versatile moments of the first tracks and the plodding density of the closing track. “Monument” defines wall of sound. The first minute of its play time is like listening to a mountain's millennial long rise from the crust of the earth, before dipping into the memorable build up that seems to be a true necessity in the closing of such a massive album. Riddled more with the soft drum and bass pattern and speckles of guitar I mentioned earlier, along with the dissonant vocals adding another layer of already stewing emotion, the song pulls the listener in with the bombastic intro and gives them more breathing room than is expressed on any other track. Finally, the song fades out with an echoing guitar line that fades into eternity like space itself.
If an awe inspiring first impression is a tough act to follow, then what Rosetta's Wake/Lift
shows us is that it is an even more impressive act to top. This album is reeling with emotional intensity from every angle, and the astronomical expansion it portrays on the band's part is absolutely magnificent. While each track can easily stand alone as a wonder in and of itself, the overall piece as a whole is nothing short of a work of art. If there is a point in which music exceeds sound and becomes an experience, then anyone willing to take the journey to that point will undoubtedly be led right here.