- - - - - -

Rolo Tomassi - Grievances

Rolo Tomassi – CD Review




CD Info
Holy Roar Records (UK/EU)
Ipecac Recordings (North America/Japan)
Shock Records (Australia/NZ)
Experimental Jazz-Metal Fusion
11 Tracks
English Lyrics


Dazzling. Add another thousand words of praise and you’ll be close to the impact this album made on me. It is an absolute delight, full of wonderful surprises that fill me with my world-renowned happy bubbles. The band and their music are extraordinary in the most gratifying way. I use “extraordinary” in its proper sense of completely out of the ordinary. For this hybrid lover of metal, jazz and prog, Grievances is one of the sensory highlights of the year.

Rolo Tomassi aren’t a fraction as well-known and revered as they deserve to be. Their discography dates back to 2006 and includes three studio albums before Grievances. All of their albums should be in your library because they are all special. This is a fact; I am an old, old fart and therefore I know these things. Come December/January and there will be no question that Grievances will be on my list of best albums of 2015.

Since their formation in Sheffield, England, in 2006 the band have been a non-stop whirlwind of activity. Initially they released a flurry of material on just about every type of audio medium in existence. In the same year they released their first EP through Holy Roar. I don’t know when they ever rest because they grab every touring opportunity that comes their way. In addition to headline tours in the UK and Europe, they’ve toured in Japan and Australia. Everywhere they go, audiences love them and want more.

The line-up has changed over the nine years during which the band has been constantly on the go or preparing for studio recordings. That’s nothing unusual in music, especially when a band takes on the pressure of so much traveling, composing and rehearsing. All of this should have paid off in a massive way by now. It’s impressed top critics around the world, who have given top ratings to the previous three albums and named vocalist Eva Spence as one of the top 50 metal artists. Yet Rolo Tomassi still have to break through on the scale that more conventional metal acts have done.

I doubt if they feel any need or desire to become (metal) household names like Arch Enemy or Epica. They sound supremely comfortable in their own and, I dare say, unique metal niche. They can’t be constructively compared with other bands because they don’t sound like any other band. What they sound like is… well, re-read my intro about dazzling and everything else I love in modern metal.

If you’ve never heard Rolo Tomassi before, you could be forgiven for thinking they’re a metalcore band when you start playing the first track of Grievances. It will take until the second track before you recognize that they are so, so much more. Their music is structured around core, death, progressive and avant-garde metal as well as experimental jazz, with touches of pure prog rock in some of the instrumental passages.

For me, every one of the 11 tracks is bliss. The guest instrumental performances on some of the tracks inject additional fullness to what is already a wonderfully varied set of songs. Shining through everything is the enormous talent, skill and versatility of the diminutive Eva Spence. She roars out the harshest, brutal metal vocals as forcefully as any of the modern female specialists in dark vocals. When she switches to clean vocals her voice is pure, sweet, angelic.

For Grievances the lineup of musicians consists of Chris Cayford on guitar, Nathan Fairweather on bass, Tom Pitts on drums, and James Spence on synthesizer and support vocals. The guest artists are Will Calderbank on cello, and Andrew Stuart-Buttle on viola and violin. To provide the musical platform required for Eva Spence to show her full vocal ability, those musicians are all masters of their art.

The band compose all of their own music, with Eva and James Spence writing the lyrics. John Desmond collaborated with James Spence in a couple of the string arrangements and compositions.

If you get a chance to see Rolo Tomassi on stage, go! Experience songs like this one, “Stage Knives”, from Grievances. And buy this album for a beautifully refreshing journey into a universe of creativity.

Rating: 10/11, magna cum laude.

Band’s Facebook