Rolo Tomassi / Pupil Slicer / Heriot @ Oval Space, London 24th Feb 2022

This is the ninth time I have seen Rolo Tomassi live, which is, unsurprisingly, more than I have seen any other band, and it should give you some indication of how long I have been following them. This isn’t particularly meant as an ‘I liked them before they were big’ kind of brag (OK, maybe just a little) but more as evidence of how endearing their music and their presence continues to be for me.

Rolo Tomassi / Pupil Slicer / Heriot @ Oval Space, London 24/02/2022

After three years away from touring, for obvious reasons, and off the back of arguably their most well received album yet, this is Rolo Tomassi‘s biggest headline show to date. Clearly, it hasn’t spooked them though, because the band are as enthralling on stage as they have ever been, and they haven’t lost any of the traits that have always made them such a genuinely exciting live band.

Oval Space is a venue I had yet to visit in London. Situated in a former industrial area of Bethnal Green, it’s usually host to more esoteric club nights. Tonight though it’s about a legendary band of 21st century UK hardcore, and two young bands who have been directly inspired by them. The night kicks off well with opening act Heriot; recently signed to Church Road Records (home to Voices, Svalbard, and Palm Reader amongst many others) the four-piece drive home an enigmatic and deadly serious style of metallic hardcore. Sound-wise they’re reminiscent of I Am King era Code Orange, with the use of noisey electronics and melodic vocals that is not overbearing and provides a refinement to their sound far beyond what one might expect of such a young band.

Heriot @ Oval Space, London 24/02/2022 - Photo by Nick Sayers
Heriot – Photo by Nick Sayers

Pupil Slicer have been around the London scene for a few years with an eclectic mathcore sound that’s given them huge acclaim. There is a real element of fun and humour in their performance as the band bring an energy, vibrancy, and quirkiness to what is often quite difficult music to consume. It’s a trait they share with some of the best mathcore bands. They also know how to turn up the intensity too, and as their set goes on, the bigger and more emotive tracks from their stunning debut album Mirrors really start to shine.

When Rolo Tomassi begin, it’s immediately evident that they are taking things to the next level. A light show and intense intro music bring forth the tension before the band take to the stage and launch without hesitation into Cloaked, the immaculate lead single from their latest album Where Myth Becomes Memory. Having seen this band on every album cycle since their debut, their progression to this level of performance is one that might have been surprising a decade ago, but in recent years has seemed inevitable. Their down-to-earth, DIY ethic is something that defines Rolo Tomassi as much as their music, but with confidence and experience on stage the band are transcending any limitations without putting aside the connection to the audience that comes from these ethics.

Pupil Slicer @ Oval Space, London 24/02/2022 - Photo by Nick Sayers
Pupil Slicer – Photo by Nick Sayers

Their set is brilliantly crafted, consisting solely of material from Where Myth Becomes Memory and previous album 2018’s Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It. Whilst I would have loved to see them perform material from 2015’s Grievances, my personal favourite of their records, I can understand why they didn’t. Rolo Tomassi have always known how to put together a dynamic and exciting set-list, and the softer tracks such as Closer and Aftermath arrive at perfect moments amongst the heaviness of tracks like Balancing The Dark, Mutual Ruin, Rituals and the encore-opening Drip.

For a band on their first tour in three years, the performance is outstanding. Technically the band are super tight, even on the new tracks, and sonically they are tremendous in every area, replicating their sound on record remarkably well. Eva Korman and James Spence are as enchanting and engaging as ever as a front-person duo and are clearly very emotional when talking to the audience, particularly as the gig, and the tour, reaches its conclusion.

Rolo Tomassi @ Oval Space, London 24/02/2022 - Photo by Nick Sayers
Rolo Tomassi – Photo by Nick Sayers

They finish the night with the emotional epic A Flood Of Light, conjuring up a colossal sing-along from the entire audience. I’ve been witness to this finale more than once before, but after all the time away from live music we’ve had to endure, on this occasion it feels particularly special. Hopefully it won’t be as long again before I get to see Rolo Tomassi for the tenth time.

Scribed by: Will J
Photos by: Nick Sayers