ROSETTA NAIL AN IN SOUND FROM WAY OUT ON A DETERMINISM OF MORALITY
I have a personal grudge against Rosetta‘s Wake/Lift: on three separate occasions, I had it enthusiastically recommended to me by similarly twinkly-post-metal-sympathetic friends, and each time, I was bored to goddamn tears. And it’s not like I wasn’t in a place where I wouldn’t have taken to it: at the time, anything that sounded remotely like Isis, Jesu, or Neurosis was something I would have given at least a nod of approval. But each time — even the latter two with an attitude of, “Alright, what am I missing?” — I felt massively let down. After the last attempt, I gave up on Rosetta completely; they came to represent, to me, the genre’s inherent excess and pretension, boiling down to a bunch of guys with tattoo sleeves in love with the sound of their amps. Though the same three guys would eventually insist that maybe I just “didn’t get” the album, perhaps it wasn’t an album — and subsequently a band — to be gotten.
So imagine my surprise when hearing A Determinism of Morality, Rosetta’s latest, and discovering that it’s a masterfully crafted record of carefully executed dynamics and the sort of subtle brilliances that define the post-whatever world. The band manage to sound lush and epic while at once being heavy and not necessarily even metal. Which is to say, they do this thing just right.
A Determinism of Morality basically amounts to a panorama of jangling guitars loosely reined by the band’s obscenely tight rhythm section (highlighted by the band’s busy-yet-focused drummer Bruce McMurtie Jr.) capped off by vocalist/”sound manipulator” Mike Armine’s gruff shouting. Though that may sound overly familiar, it perfectly illustrates the band’s effectiveness: not too calculated as to portray a stifling creative environment and thus a cold and mechanical attempt at spaciness, but also not an amateurish free-for-all where a bunch of hardcore/metal kids make shallow attempts to sound deep. Rosetta are a well-put together band whose chemistry seems endlessly complex, and A Determinism of Morality is a well-assembled together album. Songs ebb and flow to suit the album’s overall ebb and flow: the tension of its first third — capped by the vaguely Coalesce-y ending of “Je N’en Connais Pas La Fin” — is eased by the slow-burning “Blue Day for Croatoa,” followed by the magnificent trifecta of “Release,” “Revolve,” and “Renew,” which is subsequently brought back down by the album’s closing title track. Peaks are reached, valleys eased into, and the band seemingly do so comfortably. It’s moody, expansive, and contemplative, but never cheaply executed. Rosetta know how to wander out just far enough so they can find their way back, an attribute many, many bands noticeably lack.
The fact that A Determinism of Morality doesn’t devolve into an amp porn jerkoffery is its strongest suit, seeing as, with a sound as gorgeous as theirs, it would be easy for them to get lost in it. Even the album’s sole slip-up — the positively done-to-death post-hardcore, sub-Dredg bellowing clean vocals on “Release “– illustrates how a lesser band would have mangled the record and how Rosetta’s approach was both unique and necessary. However, to simply claim that A Determinism of Morality isn’t a mess robs the band of the apparent planning that went into composing the album’s mighty arc. But it also doesn’t sound overwrought, either: like all good artists, the band made their work look effortless despite the effort involved. The album reveals itself more and more each time you return to it, like a good album should. So writing off Rosetta as directionless meanderers is apparently massively unfair; they’re clearly in control of their craft, and one needs to spend time with the band in order to fully envelope what they’re trying to do. Pretentious reasoning, I know, but like most bands of their ilk, good things come to those who wait. It even makes me think that maybe I should give Wake/Lift another shot.
Big “maybe,” though.
(4 out of 5 horns)