Words: Billy Padmore
Photos: Jessica Piochon
13 years and five albums in, Rolo Tomassi are playing the biggest show of their career. Having toured the U.K. earlier this year in support of their new record Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It, the Sheffield noisemakers are once again sharing their idiosyncratic sound with the country, with London’s Scala serving as the final venue to play host to the five date run.
First to take the stage were Norwich four-piece Cassus (9). Looking fresh faced and clean-cut, the ominous sustained bass tone (‘the longer the note, the more dread’) seemed out of place with their appearance, suggesting a doom-like sound from the band. All the more shocking when the band launched into a full-on scream assault. Chaos ensued straight out of the gate, with drummer Sonny Patten seemingly determined to exhaust himself through his fill-heavy playing. The remaining members of the band threw themselves around the stage without dropping a single note. Despite the deadly 7pm start, the initially empty room started to attract some spectators when those at the bar caught wind of the riotous noise bouncing out from the stage. Cassus’ songs followed completely unconventional and complex structures, and the band performed them with the tightness and precision of a much more experienced act.
Next up were Blood Command (7), whose 2017 album Cult Drugs found its way onto several end of year lists. The room filled out as Norwegian six-piece provided their own spin on the dance-punk sound, with petite vocalist Karina Ljone channelling Björk at her yappiest. Opening with ‘CTRL-Art-Delete’, the Adidas clad performers kept the energy up by performing two more songs back to back with no time for the crowd to stop dancing. With poppy choruses, ‘woahs’ aplenty and even a teased eight bar cover of ‘Heaven’ by Bryan Adams (or DJ Sammy if you prefer), the punks provided a welcome alternative to the mathy sound of their tour buddies. Unfortunately the band themselves performed one too many synchronised kicks for their own energy to appear organic, but considering how dour hardcore acts can be, Blood Command’s choreography can be forgiven due to the levels of fun provided.
With the venue filled to the brim and the crowd sufficiently warmed, all were ready for album-of-the-year contenders Rolo Tomassi (8). Despite the overdone use of film sample over the PA serving as a prelude to their set, the band immediately ignited a mosh pit with opener ‘Rituals’. Dipping into their older material – including Hysterics classic ‘Oh, Hello Ghost’ – the mathcore mob kept the fans on their toes and crowd surfers in the air, and while it was their latest release Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It that earned Rolo their headline slot at Scala, the tracks from previous albums received just as warm a reception. Vocalist Eva Spence performed her signature twirls around the stage in contrast to the frenetic instrumentation, and keyboardist/vocalist James Spence’s commanding stage presence (when the songs permitted him to leave the keyboards) demonstrated the siblings know how to captivate an audience. Alas, the other members ran the risk of appearing as session musicians; they know their parts, perform them flawlessly and moved about when the song suggests, but otherwise remained expressionless in their plain black attire. As the set drew to a close and the band were pulled back onstage for an encore, James Spence requested the crowd turn on their phone torches, illuminating the room with a flood of light for their finale, erm, ‘A Flood Of Light’. With balloons falling from the rafters as the crowd joined Eva in the track’s vocal refrain, it is safe to say Rolo Tomassi are now destined for the big leagues.