Sheffield’s Rolo Tomassi are an experimental rock band, whose music can be very difficult to categorise. Since being formed in 2005 by siblings Eva and James Spence they have always challenged listeners and pushed boundaries, drawing on influences ranging from metalcore to classical music to jazz. Despite various lineup changes (The Spence siblings remaining the only consistent members), Rolo Tomassi have gone from strength to strength with each of their four albums being more ambitious and eclectic than the one before. Following on from 2015’s excellent Grievances, their fifth album Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It has a lot to live up to.
Right from the start Time Will Die… explores new territory for the band, with gorgeous intro track ‘Towards Dawn’. This dreamy instrumental gradually builds and, unlike previous openers (such as ‘Howl’ from 2012 album Astraea), doesn’t burst into life but simply segues neatly into track two, ‘Aftermath’. The bright, poppy verses and anthemic choruses make this easily the most radio-friendly song Rolo Tomassi have released, but Eva’s soaring soprano vocals cement it firmly in the band’s canon.
Starting off the album with two of the band’s lightest tracks is certainly a bold move, but it soon becomes apparent that this is very far from a ‘pop’ album. An ominous keyboard melody introduces lead single ‘Rituals’, before giving way to a raw, spiralling frenzy of riffs and harsh screamed vocals. This ferocious track serves as the perfect introduction to the heavier side of the album. Later on, the furious, piercing guitar riffs of ‘Alma Mater’ seemingly nod to the recently disbanded Dillinger Escape Plan.
In the past, Rolo Tomassi have experimented with lengthy, progressive tracks but on Time Will Die…, the band’s longest album to date, they push this to a new level. Each previous album featured just one track clocking in at over 7 minutes, which has always been the closing track. Now, however, the band have bravely included three such epics on one album. ‘The Hollow Hour’ twists and turns through thrashing guitars, hypnotic pianos and a desperate, pleading refrain. ‘A Flood of Light’ is a synthy masterpiece, with its gargantuan, thundering chorus unfolding into a lush crescendo. ‘Contretemps’ starts out with quiet piano chords, gradually adding more layers before erupting into a glorious, triumphant climax which it feels like the whole album has been building up to.
All good things must come to an end. After the haunting piano coda of ‘Contretemps’ fades away we are left with ‘Risen’, a soothing lullaby which serves as a gentle come-down after the exhilarating ride which preceded it. Bookending the album with such mellow tracks gives it an almost cyclical nature, enticing the listener to go back and listen to it again and again. There are certainly so many layers and intricacies that one is bound to discover something new on every listen.
Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It is a tour de force, pushing every aspect of Rolo Tomassi’s music to its limit. This album sees them at their most melodic, their most brutal and their most progressive. Colossal guitar riffs, walls of noise and a pounding rhythm section, topped off with sublime (and savage) vocals from the Spences make this a joy to listen to from start to finish.