Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It: Exclusive album stream

Progressive mathcore luminaries stream their most expansive and diverse album to date exclusively with The Independent

Remfry Dedman
Tuesday 27 February 2018 12:18 GMT
Rolo Tomassi, from left to right, Eva Spence
Rolo Tomassi, from left to right, Eva Spence

Three years after the release of their exceptional, career-defining fourth record Grievances, Rolo Tomassi have returned with the most expansive and dynamic album of their career to date. The band has always thrived on disparities, wildly pinballing between opposing elements of beauty and chaos and in doing so, finding the beauty within that chaos. Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It continues their startling progression and add even more elements of the melodicism that they’ve expanded upon with each successive release. The album, which has already been described as the band’s masterpiece by critics, will be available through Holy Roar records from Friday 2nd March, but you can hear the record for the first time now, exclusively with The Independent.

The album’s title, lifted from a poem by American postmodern author Richard Brautigan, was in place long before any music had been written and provided a loose brief for the musical direction the record would take, whilst also helping the band move away from the stylistic parameters of their previous album. “Grievances was a very dark monochromatic record that focused on guilt and regret” says co-vocalist and keys player James Spence. “I wanted to make a clean break from that because I felt like I’d overcome everything that we'd written within that record. For me, it was about moving forwards and taking things to a slightly happier place. My friend makes prints and she posted one she’d made on her Instagram which said ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’ and I was immediately struck by it. I'm constantly keeping notes on sentences or words that I like, anything that strikes a creative spark. I knew immediately that’s what I wanted to call the record, it was just a case of convincing everyone else. It felt like a perfect contrast to Grievances and brought so many different sonic images to mind.”

The ambiguities in the title are perfect for a band that regularly blur the lines between graceful elegance and tumultuous chaos. In writing material to such an enigmatic phrase, each member of the band brought their own interpretation and as a result, the record is built on contrasts and contradictions. “I really love it when we nail the melodic side of our band” says James “so I wanted to bring a lot more of that onto this record which I think you can definitely hear on certain tracks. But Chris interpreted the title in a much darker, more sombre way, which is reflected in some of the songs he brought in such as “Balancing the Dark” and “Rituals”; you can almost see where the split is in a lot of the material.”

Whilst the band are probably most associated with a heady maelstrom of aggressive math-rock malice that’s beguiled fans for the past 12 years, Rolo Tomassi have also been progressively exploring melody with more courage and tenacity upon each successive release. Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It contains the boldest, most mellifluous material in the band’s catalogue, upping the ante considerably with sumptuous vocal harmonies and the most accomplished performances from the siblings Spence to date. “We had the time and resources to write vocal harmonies and add that as a different texture,” says James “which is something that we’ve never really had the luxury to do before. I would never want to suggest that anything we do is an afterthought but in the past, there's certainly been a little less time spent on vocals than we would like, so this time around, we made a conscious decision to develop them to their absolute full potential. I'm glad we did because it brings a completely different element to the band that we've not really had before.”

The contrast between the bleak, stark monochrome aspects of Grievances and this new album are obvious from the moment Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It begins. “Towards Dawn”, the album’s opening track, gradually floats in to focus like ambient digital waves lapping upon a hazy, distant shoreline as delicate vocal harmonies build, intertwine and overlap before seamlessly segueing into “Aftermath”, a song which James describes as the band’s attempt at a pop song. At first, I’m unsure as to whether he’s joking or not but his resolve remains steadfast. It’s undoubtedly the most tranquil and triumphant start to a Rolo Tomassi record in the 10 years they’ve been writing albums. ““Aftermath” is the four-minute pop song that we’ve been trying to write for ages but never really nailed” he says assuredly. “We don’t tend to write music like that, so it was difficult to judge when it was finished. Our instincts are usually to keep adding things and at one point, “Towards Dawn” and “Aftermath” were going to be one track, but that would have taken away from the idea of it being a song based around a more traditional pop formula.”

“I couldn't have imagined us writing something like “Aftermath” several years ago” vocalist Eva adds. “It comes from a place of hope and lyrically a lot of our other songs don’t. It was one of the most challenging songs to write for me because I find it easier to draw from negatives than positives, especially when screaming. I was tweaking those lyrics for a long time, even whilst we were in the studio because I wanted them to be the best that they could be for this song that isn't like anything we’ve done before. You're immediately much more vulnerable when everyone can understand what you're saying but it feels good to have something like that on the record.”

“Aftermath” is the sound of one of the most idiosyncratic bands in the world playing things straight whilst subtly and subconsciously utilising the tricks which make them such a superb and unique unit. Whilst it may be opening Rolo Tomassi to yet more new terrain, it also sounds like a completely organic and logical move, borne out of 12 years of gradual, progressive experimentation. It’s a fine illustration of the modus operandi laid out for this record; establish the direction and essence of each song and then explore how those elements can be pushed to the nth degree. In the case of “Aftermath”, we have possibly the most melodic, uplifting ‘pop’ moment of the band’s career which is counterpointed by the chaotic, black-metal inflected maelstrom of a song like “Whispers Among Us”.

It’s a tricky balance to strike, much like mixing comedy with tragedy in the hope that an audience will laugh one moment and cry the next. Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It succeeds by allowing each section to flourish into something grandiose, an approach at odds with the band’s former scattershot method of throwing as many ideas into a melting pot as possible and ferociously blending them together to create a volatile mix. “There’s been a concerted effort to make parts really flow together for this album” says guitarist Chris Cayford “rather than having a heavy section and a melodic section that just happen to be in the same key and bolt them crudely together. Just because two sections happen to be in the same key, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to sound right together.”

Rolo Tomassi albums traditionally tend to end on a grand, sweeping epic that usually surmises all of the band’s strengths and unifies them into one glorious protracted opus. Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It boasts three such efforts; “The Hollow Hour”, “A Flood of Light” and “Contretemps”. “There’s never really a focused effort to sit down with the intention of writing a song that’s over 7 minutes long” James explains. “I think it’s simply an extension of us allowing ourselves to push several of those big, expansive ideas and we ended up with a few of those songs interspersed throughout the record. The first song we wrote of this album was “The Hollow Hour”; we were sound-checking that song whilst touring Grievances. That song is all of my favourite bits from that record condensed into a 7 and a half minute song. Writing it was almost like tying up a loose end so that we could start something else.”

“The first song you write for a new record is inevitably going to take ideas from the record you’ve just written” Chris adds. “It's so hard to have a clean break and immediately come up with a completely new concept, so I think that song was a gateway of sorts into the other songs. It hints at the direction the album takes, there are definitely parts within it that opened the door to things that we continued to develop on the rest of this album.”

It is “Contretemps” however that really stands apart as the masterpiece of this record, a stunning, propulsive expansive work that like “Illuminaire” before it, or “All That Has Gone Before”, or even the title-track from the band’s second album Cosmology, will likely become one of Rolo Tomassi’s most beloved and enduring epics. “We struggled for so long to get the intro to that right” James recalls. “I wanted to challenge myself to write an ascending pattern that feels like a plane taking off, something with a constant sense of motion. There’s a couple of tracks that I feel do it really well, one of which was “All Yours” by Submotion Orchestra. It used to be a regular on the playlist at the restaurant I work at and I absolutely loved it. I sat down and learnt how to play it and worked out that the trick was simply to have an ascending pattern that added an extra chord each time it’s played. We’ve never really done something like that before and I think when we wrote “Contretemps”, we had festival crowds in mind. There’s this huge melodic tension building before reaching a point where it just explodes. That's probably the one I'm looking forward to playing most live.”

This new album sees Rolo Tomassi fully envelop the more melodic leanings that they’ve been threatening to inhabit more intensely as their career has progressed. It contains some of the most beautiful material in the band’s discography, whilst also having enough intricacies and layers to be digested over many months before revealing all its spoils. “As a band, we listen to a lot of music that doesn’t sound like our band at all” says James after a small excursion discussing the ambient drone duo Stars of the Lid. “It's great to have the opportunity to let that influence shine through on our music and make it successfully work amongst an album of really dense complicated proggy hardcore.”

Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It is released through Holy Roar Records on Friday 2nd March. Rolo Tomassi begin a UK and European tour in Paris on 21st March

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