Rolo Tomassi: Live at Picture House Social, Sheffield
Picture the scene: you’re lying face-down on a massage table in a dimly-lit room. The smell of pinewood incense gently wafts in your direction, soothing whale noises emanate from a small boombox in one corner and someone is rubbing relaxation oils into those knots in your shoulders. Suddenly, the door flies open and some maniac dressed as Freddy Kruger bursts in and commences an acupuncture session with needles made from shards of broken glass. Welcome to a world of juxtaposition, welcome to Rolo Tomassi.
Originally hailing from Sheffield but now located mostly on the (marginally) sunnier south coast of these fair isles, Rolo Tomassi fuse frantic Dillinger Escape Plan style math-metal with delicate post-rock and shoegaze sequences, creating a sound that in one moment envelops you in velvety passages, and in another hits you repeatedly in the jaw with a chrome baseball bat. Where perhaps on earlier outputs this clash of styles occasionally resulted in incoherence, in recent times (and especially on their latest fantastic album Grievances), they have shown themselves more than capable of penning a great tune without scrimping on the crushing heaviness.
Kicking things off with a stunning one-two of the album’s title track followed by a rendition of Estranged, that was wince-inducing in its brutality, Rolo Tomassi were on serious form, bringing a set laden with tracks off their latest release. It’s really no wonder that vocalist Eva Spence was named on a prominent list of the greatest rock stars in the world a few years ago; her ability to fly about the stage delivering utterly blood curdling vocal savagery before switching, again on a heartbeat, to absolutely note-perfect mellifluous singing is simply remarkable.
As one watches Rolo Tomassi, especially when they are in full-on brawl mode, it is impossible not to get caught up in the fun, the energy and the idiosyncrasies that make this band such a delight. Adrasteia ensured that the dance floor kept moving, to which a thoroughly-bemused security guard immediately made a beeline, before, realising he was completely out of his depth, bustling back to the side of the venue. As if to demonstrate their disregard for convention, the band closed on moody 7 minute epic All That Has Gone Before, rather than hurtling out for one last pitiless assault on the senses. With his scorching fills and mind-bending polyrhythms, a huge shout must also go out to drummer Tom for his outstanding performance.
The only minor gripe was a slightly muddied sound that buried a good deal of the guitar and some of the keys, but, other than that, a great performance from a unique British band that we must cherish.