ROLO TOMASSI- ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’

Rolo Tomassi are a revelation. Almost 20 years into a career that has seen them go fromplaying hyperactive, neon-tinged hardcore to dense, complex, cutting-edge cross-genre sounds, they now feel like an increasingly unique proposition with a rapidly decreasing list of peers. No matter what happens from here, the now-transatlantic outfit should go down as one of the finest heavy bands of this century.

The revelation didn’t begin with 2015’s ‘Grievances’– Rolo Tomassi were a fascinating listen before then- but that record remains a striking turning point, maybe the moment the band forged their sound into something solid, something permanent. But their subsequent album,2018’s ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’, was even better. It wasn’t another good album filled with hints at how great the outfit behind it could, perhaps, one day become. It was true greatness, here and now, without terms and without conditions.

While neither were necessarily conceived or composed as such, the band have now been able to look back at those records and identify them as connected works, as the first two parts in an accidental trilogy exploring themes of trauma, death, reconciliation, intimacy, and rebirth.

The third part is sixth album ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’. And it’s phenomenal, it really is. Opener ‘Almost Always’ is part Deftonesian shake, part post-rock shimmer, boldly sparse at times but still totally mesmerising. ‘Cloaked’ connects a satisfying dice-roll riff to spidery percussion and a widescreen synth-laden soundscape. And despite its title, ‘Labyrinthine’ is actually one of the most direct songs the band have ever recorded, a sonic sledgehammer.

All that said though, by comparison to what’s come before, this feels… adequate. Oh, there’s nothing wrong here, nothing out of place, every moment would’ve made sense on the band’s last album. And that’s maybe my point. Because it felt like Rolo Tomassi had worked so hard to put themselves into a position where they could do anything, anything at all, only for them to do, I think, more of the same. 

Now, don’t get me wrong- the “same” here is some incredible stuff. ‘Drip’ begins with a tense, cinematic build-up that I want to listen to on repeat for hours, the middle of ‘Prescience’ sounds like a lost James Bond theme, and ‘Stumbling’ is a forlorn, distortion-free heartbreaker, but many of the structures, textures, tempos and transitions are familiar, or less effective than before.

I’m grasping at something here because I don’t have the right words just yet. This is a blistering and beautiful and neatly balanced record, and, listen, it’s one of my favourites of the year so far, but it just doesn’t feel like a grand finale. ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’ never threatens to fall short of the high standards this unique band have set over recent years, no. It just never threatens to exceed them either. If anything, it feels like a cliffhanger. It feels like a true conclusion awaits.

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