When a band completely sells out a tour before it’s even started, you know something special is afoot. Especially when that band is Rolo Tomassi, who’ve spent over a decade working their socks off and gradually building momentum to get to this point. With the recent release of their stunning fifth album – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It – the experimental post-hardcore group have rightfully attracted a lot of attention in the alternative music scene, meaning tickets for these shows were snatched up at an unprecedented rate. We headed to the Asylum 2 in Birmingham for what was bound to be a magical evening.
Opening up proceedings were black-metallers Cryptodira, all the way from New York. The Long Island band received a warm welcome from the Birmingham crowd, captivating the audience with their complex, progressive sound. Though this tour was their first ever visit to the UK, they certainly made an impression and hopefully it’s not long before they’re given the chance to return.
While Cryptodira may just be making their first foray into the UK heavy music scene, up next were a band who are already well on their way to becoming one of the scene’s shining stars. I am of course referring to Palm Reader. Like Rolo Tomassi, they’ve been working tirelessly for years and that hard work seems to be paying off as their new album Braille looks set to launch them to great heights. The new album was due out the day after this show, something the band were understandably excited about judging by vocalist Josh Mckeown’s frequent references to the fact. The Nottingham quintet’s set wasn’t too heavy on new material however, with a few choice cuts from the new record such as ‘Swarm’ and ‘Like a Wave’ balanced fairly evenly with a few older tracks. Regardless, their set went down a treat and paved the way perfectly for what followed.
As the calm, ambient synths of ‘Towards Dawn’ gently swelled, Rolo Tomassi made their way through the packed room and took their places before gliding into poppy, anthemic single ‘Aftermath’. After this uncharacteristically light opening the set took a turn into more extreme territory (much like the new album itself) with heavier tracks like ‘Rituals’ and ‘Estranged’. Despite plenty of heavy songs being played, the crowd were relatively still, mainly opting to stand and stare in awe rather than get rowdy. Besides a small mosh pit, (which reached maximum intensity during the furious ‘Stage Knives’) the majority of people seemed simply mesmerised by the performance, either by vocalist Eva Spence‘s wild, hypnotic dancing or just by the sheer musical talent on display. Plus, the 120-cap venue was so crammed there wasn’t much space to move anyway.
Though the setlist focused mainly on Rolo Tomassi’s two most recent albums (Time Will Die… and 2015’s Grievances), the band chose to finish on ‘Illuminare’, the stellar closing track from 2012 album Astraea. This songs’s spine-chilling, synth-laden climax fits it nicely alongside more recent epics such as ‘A Flood of Light’ and ‘Contretemps’, underlining a set consisting of some of Rolo Tomassi’s most accomplished and impressive songs. Before launching into this final song, keyboardist/vocalist James Spence joked that they would normally leave the stage for an encore but the venue was so small there was really no point. This moment helped to hammer home the fact that venues like this are barely big enough to contain a band as ambitious as Rolo Tomassi. Given the fast selling-out of the tour and the immense scope of the band’s sound, it surely won’t be long before venues like this are a thing of the past for Rolo. Next stop, the Asylum’s bigger downstairs room? Fingers crossed.