- Year 2017
- Genre Post RockPost-MetalSludge
- Country United States
- Label Independent
- Rating Solid
Over the past fourteen years Philadelphia’s Rosetta has gone in many different directions. Starting off with a sludge/post metal sound that was equal parts atmospheric and noisy, their first two albums delivered crushing intensity and melodies that were a bit rougher around the edges compared to their peers. Recent years focused on mellower exploration and extended passages that had a progressive and post rock flair to them, including 2015’s ‘Quintessential Ephemera’, which showcased Rosetta’s ability to spread outwards towards hazier atmospherics and a greater focus on clean singing. This year’s ‘Utopioid’ feels like a natural progression. It’s perhaps the band’s softest effort to date, saving the crushing climaxes for specific moments, and while this makes the barrier of entry a bit higher than before it’s an album with plenty of depth for listeners to explore.
It’s perhaps the band’s softest effort to date, saving the crushing climaxes for specific moments…
If you’re mainly familiar with ‘The Galilean Satellites’ or ‘Wake/Lift’, ‘Utopioid’ may come as a bit of a surprise. After all, for a group that’s so often lumped under the post metal and sludge tags, it isn’t until around the third song that the instrumentals head into a mix of spacey ambiance and heavier riffing. It’s an interesting way for Rosetta to start things off, but for those that have been keeping track of them from one album to the next this is a shift in sound that feels completely natural. Amnion may be some of the lightest melodies this group has written, with the airier feel to the guitar work giving off imagery of calmly floating through space, taking in all of the sights. From there the sound opens up quite a bit with Intrapartum, though this track still maintains a softer approach. What struck me the most about this piece the first time through the record is the way the guitar and bass are structured, as it gives off hints of shoegaze and alternative rock similar to Failure which I don’t remember hearing from Rosetta before. The rest of ‘Utopioid’ strikes a fine balance between mellow and heavy tonality, kicking things into high gear at just the right moments with dense bass lines and guitar leads that recall the power and spacey qualities of the group’s earlier days. This new direction does lack immediacy though, and it’s likely to take a few times through for some of these songs to fully click. With that being said, I also found that the last few tracks start to drag a bit, with portions of Hypnagogic and Intramortem coming across as a bit too stretched out. But the soaring, intense passages and shimmering atmospherics that are prominent throughout the album still prove to be truly engaging, and even with a few lulls there are plenty of moments that will bring listeners back.
Clean singing was a dominant force on ‘Quintessential Ephemera’, and this has continued to be the case on ‘Utopioid’. That doesn’t mean that Mike Armine doesn’t get the chance to steal the spotlight with his screaming that towers over the instrumentation, but the overall approach is a bit more subdued this time around. This is echoed by the way the album was recorded and mixed, as the screams sound as though they’re bursting out from behind the instrumentation. Contrasting this, the singing comes through as much fuller and often hangs over each song with an ethereal presence. It’s an interesting approach that fits well with Rosetta’s softer, airier sound throughout much of the album, and while I do miss some of the truly intense screaming sections from years past I can’t fault the band for doing something different.
Out of Rosetta’s last few efforts, ‘Quintessential Ephemera’ still stands out the most for me. But even though it may drag a bit towards the end and is likely to take longer to get into, ‘Utopioid’ showcases a band that isn’t afraid to step further out of their comfort zone towards new directions. The level of atmosphere and softer nuances they’ve been able to create are impressive, and this is once again material you can get completely lost in. In a genre where so many groups tread the same ground for much of their career, it’s great to see that there’s still room to push outwards towards parts unknown.