2015 may very well be the year of post-metal. I mean, in my head every year is the year of post-metal, as I’ve been stuck in limbo since 2009, still hoping Isis will eventually reform and tour with Pelican and Cult of Luna. A man can always dream, can’t he?
2015 saw the unexpected return of a largely under-recognised band, Minsk, and now of the largely recognized, but still underrated, Rosetta. Their respective records, though different, prove that the genre is far from being archived and can still offer some of the best episodes of the year in music. Rosetta’s return was somewhat predicted this year, but it is a welcome surprise nonetheless, as the band delivers a record reminiscent of their mid-career works but with a refreshing new soul. The biggest news was that Rosetta were finally recording officially as a quintet. Eric Jernigan of City of Ships had regularly collaborated with the band before (see Flies to Flame EP) but on Quintessential Ephemera he has taken a more discernible role. The fifth element’s influence is heard throughout the composition, but especially in the vocal section. Edited and renewed, 2015’s Rosetta are not as intricate as 2007’s, as cathartic as 2010’s, and especially not as aggressive as 2013’s; it is a whole new Rosetta as the band reinvents its trademark sound once again by adding some lighter elements, like airier compositions characterized by a more predominant use of harmonic vocals. More surprising than the final result itself is how comfortable the band is with their calmer, more relaxed alter ego. Quintessential Ephemera stands in fact as Rosetta’s “softest” and “pop-iest” record to date.
RELEASE DATE: 22 June 2015 LABEL: Self-released
The band’s previous offering, The Anaesthete, was often criticized for being “too heavy” and less inspired than its predecessors, or simply as lacking that certain spark the other albums had. I never really understood where those criticisms and cold receptions came from, as in my opinion, the album revealed an angry, darker side of the band, one that was not afraid to yell and let out all the frustrations and anxieties that characterize our lives. The album also served as a tribute to a certain hardcore sound that bands across the East Coast created and developed between the late 1990s to early 2000s. The Anaesthete in that sense definitely paid homage to that particular “East Coast” sound (more than any bands in particular) and Rosetta’s origin as a band as well. However, as we know it, most adults don’t feel comfortable recalling their angsty teenage years, nor do they feel it’s appropriate expressing and exploring our discomfort and distress. And when that’s reflected in music, well, we can’t expect everyone to appreciate it or even understand it, can we?
Sterile debates aside, Rosetta seem to have acknowledged their “youthful slip-ups” and scaled down the “heaviness ladder” a few steps on this latest offering, producing what sounds heavy without being heavy. Quintessential Ephemera showcases the classic Rosetta sound with a fresher, lighter coating that allows the more subtle and atmospheric moments to emerge from the depths of the band’s metal core. This proves to be a nice change of pace for Rosetta as Quintessential Ephemera is a fun and atmospheric record that flows effortlessly from the very first spin. The album in fact, despite being extremely multi-faceted, is surprisingly easy to listen to.
Whereas The Anaesthete was full-out aggression on most its length, Quintessential Ephemera sacrifices some elements of the sonic assault and proceeds more slowly, carefully balancing its every move before launching the attack. The album doesn’t however sacrifice Rosetta’s trademark sound; a guarantee of quality atmospheric metal with sludge, hardcore, and cinematic influences.
I’ll put it bluntly: Quintessential Ephemera is simply just not as rough around the edges as its older siblings might have been. Although the more intense parts on Quintessential Ephemera (e.g. the bridge between the end of II and beginning of III) could make a few fans regret the “old” Rosetta, their calmer and more contained counterparts actually do the trick this time. Crowned as best track, V best encapsulates the true essence of the whole record. With its light, distended crescendos and harmonious clean sections, Untitled V truly embraces the band’s new direction.
Quintessential Ephemera sees Rosetta adding another solid record to their catalogue. How extensive that catalogue is going to become in the future is only up to the band, but for now, with three releases in three years, we can’t really see the band stopping here. The newest addition is fresh and fleshy and adds lots of possibilities for the band’s new direction – the album sounds like the classic Rosetta without sounding predictable or stale. With Quintessential Ephemera, Rosetta take some room to breathe, expanding their influences as well as their reach.