Rosetta- Quintessential Ephemera

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, June 29, 2015

It has been a few years since I spent in-depth time listening to Rosetta, so I missed out on their full length The Anaesthete and follow-up EP Flies to Flame. This isn’t due to a lack of interest, but rather because after being exposed to so many bands through reviewing in the past decade sometimes it can be hard to keep up with them all. But The Galilean Satellites, Wake/Lift, and A Determinism of Morality were albums that all made a significant impression on me, as Rosetta’s progression from crushing sludge and hints of melodic textures to a full-on merging of sludge with absolutely stunning post rock was a welcome one. So it seems appropriate that my reintroduction to the band after these few years away is Quintessential Ephemera captures all of the elements that drew me in on their earlier efforts while continuing to branch out naturally. It’s an effort that has plenty of immediate hooks but rewards those who spend extended time exploring everything each song has to offer, and a sign that even a decade after The Galilean Satellites Rosetts hasn’t lost any of their ability.

One of the biggest changes the group has gone through is the addition of guitarist Eric Jernigan from City of Ships. Not only does Jernigan contribute quite a bit of melodic singing throughout Quintessential Ephemera (which I will touch on shortly), but by adding another guitar player into the mix it has allowed Rosetta to fill out their sound even more. This time around they start things off on the mellower end of the spectrum, as the album begins and ends with softer instrumental pieces that have a lighter, introspective feeling. The other seven songs are all untitled, so this makes it seem as though the beginning and ending tracks really tie everything together. Although there may be some of the softest sections Rosetta has ever written present on Quintessential Ephemera, that’s not to say that they’ve lost that rougher edge and crushing blast of heaviness that was a hallmark of their earlier efforts. But it’s used a bit more sparingly this time around, as rather than serving as the pillar that the instrumentals work off of to create atmosphere the group has gone in the opposite direction and builds up to intense, aggressive climaxes rather than staying there the entire time.

This direction makes sense, and it makes each song enticing to fully explore in-depth. There are even more nuances to the post rock and spacey melodies this time around, and similar to A Determinism of Morality there are quite a few moments that feel genuinely warm and inviting and envelop you in a calming, hazy atmosphere. Yet at the same time there are overwhelmingly powerful moments like the leads on “Untitled V” which head into the opposite spectrum and channel sheer aggression, making it clear that Rosetta’s unlikely to abandon their sludge roots any time soon. While there are plenty of standout riffs and sweeping melodies on individual songs, what I liked the most about Quintessential Ephemera is that the two titled tracks and the seven untitled ones all flow together seamlessly to form one cohesive listening experience.

As I mentioned earlier, with the addition of Eric Jernigan there has been a considerable shift towards mellower clean singing. Rosetta’s utilized a little bit of this in the past, but never to this extent, and what’s interesting this time around is that every member of the band contributes some type of vocals over the course of the album. Mike Armine still gets plenty of airtime though, and that’s definitely a good thing as he’s always been one of my favorite vocalists in the sludge genre. His growling cuts through the instrumentation and consistently grabs your attention, and there’s a considerable amount of weight and sheer intensity to his performance that makes a big difference. The cleaner ranges intertwine perfectly with the harsher ones, and they are pulled off with a similar amount of emotion and confidence that fills out the melodic side of the group’s music in a way they haven’t reached before.

I may have missed a few of Rosetta’s releases over the years, but Quintessential Ephemera is one hell of a way to re-acquaint myself with everything this band has to offer. They’ve taken the soaring melodies and warmer textures hinted at previously and taken them to a whole other level, and when mixed with the bursts of intense sludge and aggressive vocals it makes for a truly entrancing listen. It’s interesting to note the shift from a focus on constant heaviness to a more nuances approach, where the blasts are more calculated and add to the climaxes, and this is where these guys prove themselves to be a much more versatile act than so many of the others out there. Whether you’ve been with them since The Galilean Satellites or are a curious newcomer, don’t miss Rosetta’s latest.

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