It’s fair to say 2018 hasn’t been a bad year for Rolo Tomassi: Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It a near constant in album of the year lists, two packed tours of the UK, countless festival shows, a US leg with The Number Twelve Looks Like You, and perhaps most significantly, matching a three-year-old record for the most times I’ve seen a band in a calendar year.1 Or, you know, the actual record, of this tour date, the final one of the second UK leg, being the largest headline show they’ve played. So far. Norwich screamo-merchants Cassus, and bonkers Norwegian punks Blood Command were the warm-up at a packed out Scala.
A stupidly slow-moving box office queue means that I miss the vast majority of Cassus’ set, and turning up halfway through a set, especially to a band as frenzied as Cassus is never the ideal scenario for seeing a band. What I’m greeted by is initially very impressive, hitting all the right buttons in terms of bonkers technicality, brutality, and relentlessness, but it very quickly becomes stale – fast, and heavy, but seemingly lacking something, but still with that potential. Which is a shame, because I’ve since listened to their new album Separation Anxiety, and it’s a fucking banger; full of diverse vocals, melodic nuances, and interesting detours. I’m hoping this is a case of an opening band being stuck with an imperfect mix, because this isn’t a band that could write good music in a few years, this is a band that are writing excellent music now, and I’d love to see them again in a better setting for them.
Before seeing Blood Command, a fellow E&D scribe, who was with me throughout this show, described the band to me. I can’t remember what confusing cross-section of genres he chose, but I remember my reaction being something like, whatthefuckthatsoundsincredible! Blood Command end up suffering from the other major support band problem – having to spend a couple of songs winning over a crowd unfamiliar with their music, but by the end of the set, it’s very noticeable that they’ve gone from having two or three diehard fans singing every word, to having a large chunk of the lower floor area jumping. They remain bouncy throughout, even on some of their more aggressive numbers, and that song-writing versatility could be a sign of a great future – a band that wouldn’t sound out of place supporting All Time Low or Paramore, but that also can get that sort of reaction when with much heavier bands like the rest of tonight’s bill. Very impressive.
Most of the times I’ve seen Rolo Tomassi this year, they’ve started their set with the first couple of tracks from Time Will Die…, showcasing the transition from the ethereal ‘Aftermath’ to the gut punch of the ‘Rituals’ that is one of the most concise ways to demonstrate the range in their sound. Tonight, there are no such niceties; jumping straight from 0 to 60 with a roar from Eva Spence and a barrage from the band around her. The first half (possibly longer) of the show is a bit of a blur, any pretence of being sensible, making notes, or recording opinions or other such bullshit quickly going out of the window amidst a flurry of flailing limbs and snapping necks – tight throughout, whether at their full frenetic velocity, showing off their synth soundscapes, or when they hit monolithic levels of heaviness. Then, as they draw the set to a close, they hit two of the most poignant, liberating, and heart-wrenching live moments of the year – noticeably both from Time Will Die… as well. Firstly, they bust out ‘Aftermath’, and, while it was surprising not to hear it near the start of the set, when used early it seems more like an intro song. When at the end, it is allowed to stand on its own merits, act as a moment of respite, while also showing the Spence siblings at their full talents on vocals and synths, soaring choruses and lush melodies respectively, all combining into a mesmerising sing along. Then they go and top it, right at the end, with a performance of ‘A Flood Of Light’ that’s best described as magical. Goosebump-inducing soundscapes swirl with cathartic screams, the lights are dimmed, and the room is lit by the light of several-hundred phone torches2; a load of balloons are dropped on our heads, everyone sings the fade-out in harmony, and for a few minutes, everything was perfect3.
1: 5 times. Conjurer have since also matched that record
2: I’ve only been at one other show where this has happened, and it was the only other time I had been at Scala
3: Then we got outside and it was pissing it down