The wonderful thing about certain music is its ability to take you on a journey, both emotionally and metaphysically. Some music transcends this and takes you even further, out towards the beyond. The songs that Philadelphia based band Rosetta have released over the years have done exactly that, with fans dubbing their music “metal for astronauts”. There is no doubt about it, listening to anything Rosetta puts out is as close to space travel as any of us will ever get to do, and I am OK with that because Rosetta does it so well. After listening to any of their albums I feel like I have flown through the rings of Saturn and narrowly escaped the destruction of an aging star (and unlike “real” space travel I still make it back in time for dinner).
RELEASE DATE: 14 October 2014 LABEL: Translational Loss Records
Usually we have to wait a couple of years between Rosetta’s releases but not this time as their ep Flies to Flame comes to us just about a year after their last full length release, The Anaesthete. Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed The Anaesthete, maybe more so than some other fans did. There was just something off about it which I still can’t quite put my finger on. It could have been the odd arrangement of the songs on the album or the out of place, pseudo-black metal logo on the cover, or maybe it was because the album didn’t take me to a galaxy far far away like The Galilean Satellites or Wake / Lift had done previously. Flies to Flame is definitely a whole different beast; instead of taking me far far away, it threw me through a worm hole and had me coming out in a completely different universe!
Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, Flies to Flame is by no means a short ep with one song clocking in over 7 minutes and two others coming in at over 9 minutes each! “Soot” starts things off with a typical Rosetta-like intro with a beautiful reverb-socked guitar melody being played over a groovy bass line and driving drum beat. Listen closer though and you will hear a lot of things going on in this track. A shimmering, ambient soundscape plays in the background giving the track tons of scope and size. Synths fade in and out and sound like something that can be heard on a space ship and there is what I can only presume is an astronaut talking to mission control. Listen even closer though, and you can hear passionate screams fading in and out. This all adds to a wonderful intro section which builds up to the explosion that is the second act of “Soot”. The ambient, shimmering background is even more pronounced, but the guitar chords being played over it are huge and completely fill the huge space created by the soundscape. The drums crash down at a frantic pace and the bass adds a powerful low end that can be felt right in the gut! What is really interesting though is how the vocals are mixed on Flies to Flame; they are not very pronounced in the mix and the lyrics are practically inaudible. Rosetta has used this a lot in the past and it’s really cool to hear them doing this again as the vocals sound like an extra instrument in the mix which adds a certain texture and character to the song, also it allows the listener to come up with their own lyrics to the songs and have their own unique experiences with the music.
“Seven Years With Nothing to Show For” is an interesting instrumental track. Heavily reverb-soaked guitars play over some immensely deep bass which adds up to quite an ethereal experience. I definitely found myself “floating away” while listening to this track and it reminded me of the end scene of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, when the Star Child floats freely in space (sorry for the movie spoiler!). The title “Seven Years With Nothing to Show For” is an interesting one; I wonder if it refers to the fact that Rosetta is not as “big” as they should be in regards to fame and popularity. When the famous post-metalers Isis disbanded a few years ago there was a huge void left by them and I feel Rosetta could have easily filled it, but for whatever reasons they still fly under the radar of way too many publications and alternative music fans. “Les mots et les choses” continues in the same instrumental vein as the previous track, but it expands itself further with drums driving the track forward and what sounds like an extra guitar which adds an extra dynamic to the song. The track leaves the listener floating even further into the void of space and feeling a mass of different emotions and feelings from sadness and melancholy to optimism and happiness, and finally to awe wonder.
If you thought you were going to quietly float away into the darkness of space, think again, because the final track “Pegasus” hits the listener hard like a sledgehammer to the chest. The opening of “Pegasus” has some of the heaviest and sludgiest guitar tone ever heard on any Rosetta record, and I loved every second of it. Over all the chaos of the drums and guitars Michael Armine screams his lungs out, and sounds like a man purging himself of all his demons. Everything about this track just screams “HUGE”. What is interesting to note is how the track is arranged when compared to “Soot”; “Soot” builds itself up and progressively gets bigger where as “Pegasus” starts off huge and builds itself down therefore bringing Flies to Flame full circle and giving it a wonderful three-act structure with “Seven Years With Nothing to Show For” and “Les mots et les choses” being the middle-act. I must just quickly comment on the album artwork, it’s absolutely stunning. It looks like a clump of interconnected viral particles, but I could be interpreting it all wrong and it instead represents a multiverse with all the different universes connected, which again could be another wrong interpretation (maybe someone can tell me in the comments section what it really is!).
I have to commend Rosetta, Flies to Flame accomplishes what many bands cannot achieve in a full length release. Everything that fans love about Rosetta is showcased here, with a few new tricks to boot! It does leave Rosetta at an interesting crossroads though, where do they go from here? Having such a distinct and unique sound, it can be hard to change things up without alienating long-time fans, but by keeping their long established style they risk stagnating musically. I think Rosetta have already answered part of that question by announcing that they will be now a five-piece band with guitarist Eric Jernigan of City of Ships joining them. This should bring some new and interesting ideas, but until then I’ll have the wonderful Flies to Flame to tide me over.