Student Music Review: Rolo Tomassi - Old Mystics. Mathcore review.
Genre transcenders Rolo Tomassi released Old Mystics at the beginning of the year to coincide with the unfortunate departure of their bassist Joseph Thorpe and Lead guitarist Joe Nicholson. As they were two of the four components that make Rolo Tomassi so explosive and different to most bands, it’s a huge blow to the band and their fan base. Old Mystics was released as a limited edition vinyl and then as a single which contained Old Mystics and the b-side Mesmerizer at the same time as the statement about the members leaving to buffer the fears that Rolo Tomassi were about to lose their soul. After listening to these two songs I’m confident they’ll only get stronger.
Rolo Tomassi is a five piece experimental band from Sheffield and I can honestly say they are one of the most unique bands I’ve ever listened to. Mixing fast, technical mathcore guitars, jazz funk influenced bass, ambient synths and the most unusual element, having a female singer who screams better than most male singers, this has led to the band being defined as several different genres, the most prominent being mathcore, jazzcore and a genre created especially for the band; spazzcore. Lead singer Eva Spence and her brother James Spence are the other two quarters to the soul of Rolo Tomassi I mentioned previously.
Eva’s disorienting vocals switches between violent, terrifying screaming and sweet, haunting vocals and James smooth, ambient synths mixed so well with the experimental guitar and jazzy bass that the fan base panicked a little when news of the two members leaving broke. The band have released two full lengths Hysterics and Cosmology and several EP’s (like seven or eight, no one’s actually sure, not even the band themselves). For a band that only formed in 2008 when most of the members were 16, that’s pretty damn impressive. Old Mystics takes all these albums and EPs and gives us two tracks that perfectly embody everything the band has done.
There seems to be a trend of hardcore bands singing about “golden ages” at the moment. Whilst Your Demise were singing about their own personal golden age in relation to their careers, on the track Old Mystics Rolo Tomassi are singing about their generation. “Golden Age, Golden Age, the world was ours for us to change, but we sat back and let it fall without a single care at all.” In an unusual step for the band they sing about current events and how our generation are supposed to be the heroes of tomorrow; however we are arguably the worst generation yet. The bass keeps the first ten seconds of the track moving with a jazz inspired breakdown that continues throughout the song. Guitars hold single chords and let them ring before a hectic mathcore breakdown announces its arrival.
Eva Spence shares her vocal duties with her brother James throughout the track. Often James is excellent on Rolo Tomassi but this one feels a bit of a misfire with Eva’s vocals being far superior to his. On b-side Mesmerizer the band gets to show their other side. This is almost an easy listening track with the bass, drums and guitars disappearing for the first part of the track. Eva’s vocals are hauntingly beautiful to a standard that other female singers like Hayley Williams has never achieved. The synthesiser is the only instrument playing at first and the electric noises mix well with the vocals. When the other instruments finally return they’re not fast and technical but as calm and in control as the vocals and synths. The rest of the four minutes of the track are instrumental with no vocals at all.
This two track single is a two sided coin. On one side there is the spazzcore side to Rolo Tomassi that everyone knows and loves, on the other the ambient Mars Volta-ish side to Rolo Tomassi that everyone knows and loves. This single is not only an introduction to a new Rolo Tomassi but a perfect introduction to music fans that have been curious about this band for a while. I give the single 8/10 as it’s a haunting, kinetic single that has a lasting effect on the listener.