Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Wake! Lift!

Rosetta – The Galilean Satellite, Wake/Lift and Live at Hermann's Bar 21st July

Over at I'm the Most Important Fucking Person in the World they've been running a series on bands that sound like Isis/Neurosis/Cult of Luna, as a response to and criticism of the particularly lazy way that the metal music press like to dismiss such bands as 'just another Cult of NeurIsis clone'. Rosetta would be a perfect candidate for their series, as their sound is quite unashamedly derivative of Isis and Neurosis (and in fact, Aaron Turner, vocalist of Isis, designed the artwork for The Galilean Satellite), but who cares how much they fit into an oversaturated genre when their music is so fucking great?

From their progenitors Rosetta borrow the long track lengths, raw, shouted vocals, a slow cycle of build and release and use of alternating gentle interludes and heavy climaxes. The more unique elements that Rosetta display are dense and frequent use of ambient electronica, an enveloping, spacey sound and a positive, uplifting vibe. Not just the electronics, but also the full sound of the instruments create a much richer soundscape than say Isis, who tend to be somewhat sparse and (at least until their last album) somewhat more purist in their adherence to a standard rock format. Rosetta also have a more uplifting, at times even joyous, emotional vibe to their music, which is a nice point of difference to their post-metal contemporaries and indeed to metal as a whole, which of course tends to be melancholic, when it's not downright depressing.

Rosetta have two full length albums out (as well as a few EPs which I haven't heard). Their first, The Galilean Satellite, is the more conventional post-metal record of the two. The songs are all roughly between ten minutes and a quarter of an hour long and are leisurely arranged, allowing plenty of time for the gradual cycling from peaceful acoustic and ambient passages to the heavy climaxes where they indulge in the genre's signature sound, lumbering riffs belting out a wall of crushing distortion. And of course, it's a concept album. This one is about a man who forsakes the company of his fellow humans and begins a life of isolation on Europa (one of Jupiter's moons, hence the album title), but eventually realises that he can't live without human companionship and returns to Earth. It might sound a little cheesy, but simple stories work best as album concepts and this one is well serviced by articulate lyrics and a powerful delivery. The Galilean Satellite also comes with a companion disc of purely ambient music and while it's a perfectly good album in it's own right it's actually meant to be played synchronously with the album proper. It's very a cool idea, even if Neurosis did do something similar a couple of years back.

Wake/Lift is their second album, and it shifts gears slightly by tightening up the arrangements and putting more focus on melody and riffage at the expense of the ambience, which is neither a bad nor good thing, just a difference. By and large the two albums are pretty similar, and they both rock out something wicked so I'd be hard pressed to pick a favourite.

Now I would never had heard of these guys, but they happened to be doing an Australian tour last month; unusual for an overseas band with so little exposure but most welcome all the same. Fortunately a half page interview in a local free music rag caught a friends eye and after a quick look at their myspace page I was sold.

The gig was at the dark and pokey Hermann's Bar, on campus at Sydney Uni. I was curious to see what kind of crowd a band like this would bring in (if any) considering the relatively sparse attendance for Isis last year. I was heartened to see that there at least was one, and as you'd expect mostly comprised of shy young men dressed all in black, some trailing bored, disinterested girlfriends.

There were three opening bands, and we arrived just in time to see the first close their set with a Celtic Frost cover. Following this mysterious, unnamed band were The Surrogate, from Brisbane who were an easy fit with the headliners in terms of sound and style. They were pretty fucking good too, with a lot of fine technique on display from all four musicians. Their drummer was especially impressive, handling primary vocals while playing. They performed with tons of guts and were very well received. The only bad thing I can say about them is that their guitarist didn't wash his hands after he uses the bathroom.

The final opening band did not go down so well. In fact I felt a bit sorry for them, as after the enthusiastic applause that The Surrogate invited they received total silence at the end of each song. I don't remember their name, which is perhaps just as well because I wasn't very impressed by them. They sounded about halfway between Converge and Parkway Drive: screamy hardcore stuff. The singer did have a good strong voice, but I thought that their songs were kind of straightforward and boring, and their performances lacked the fire that that style of music really needs.

Finally Rosetta themselves took the stage. They were plagued by technical troubles to start with, including no vocals for the first song, and a muddy mix that rendered their spacey wall of sound mostly into a dull roar. Such things are to be expected at a rock show though and Rosetta compensated admirably with an impassioned performance. It's been a while since I had the opportunity to go to a smaller gig, where you can get right up and close to the band (close enough to get a bit of a shower when the vocalist went nuts on the climaxes), and the audience is well behaved but appreciative.

Hopefully it wasn't too expensive for them to come all the way over here and play. I'd love to see them again soon!

Here's the only video of them on youtube, or at least the only one I could find:

We were a much better audience than those guys by the way.

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