Perhaps it’s just coincidence that Rolo Tomassi’s third album shares its name with the Greek goddess of justice, who sits in judgement over human follies. But we doubt it. After all, if you’d spent six years as one of the most adventurous, forward-thinking and inexplicably overlooked bands in the country, you’d have an understanding of injustice, too.
Or, to put it another way: no band as talented as Rolo Tomassi should be shedding members because a chemistry degree looks like a more prosperous long-term career. Yet that’s exactly what happened last year, when guitarist Joe Nicholson left, and was soon followed by bassist Joseph Thorpe, who cited the more familiar ‘creative differences’ line. Thankfully, their departures seem to have galvanised, rather than demoralised, Sheffield’s favourite mathcore noise bastards (and bastress).
Undoubtedly made with a broader audience in mind, ‘Astraea’ is an accomplished work where the best cuts – particularly the tricksy, polyrhythmic ‘Illunis’ and the more expansive and melodic ‘Ex Luna Scientia’ – place as much emphasis on the softer, sweeter end of Eva Spence’s larynx, rather than its guttural, rusty turbine-engine depths. But ‘Astraea’ doesn’t compromise Rolo Tomassi’s sound so much as distillate it: they’re still mad as a sack of ferrets, it’s just that, on the likes of ‘Empiresk’ and the synth-textured ‘Gloam’, they’re cramming as many disparate ideas into four minutes as they usually do in seven.
It’s hard not to conclude that this is what Rolo Tomassi have been moving inexorably towards since ‘Hysterics’. If there is any justice in the world, here’s an album richly deserving of some.