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A Determinism of Morality

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Album Review

Philadelphia's self-proclaimed purveyors of "metal for astronauts" embarked on their third interstellar voyage (discounting the occasional split release) via 2010's A Determinism of Morality. Their mission: to escape the dreaded black hole of trance-metal repetition that has sucked in so many of their peers near the end of the 2000s, put the entire movement's viability into question, and helped convince at least one of its leaders — Isis — that the time had come to retire. So, not surprisingly, it's a notably more urgent and concise Rosetta who roar into action here, via the frenzied percussion, whirling guitars, and tortuously hoarse cries of opening monsoon "Ayil," on their way to shrinking most song lengths from the eight/nine- to five/six-minute range in a bid to keep things moving and exciting. Nevertheless, post-metal's trademark slow-building sound layering techniques immediately rear their pointy little heads on the hypnotic "Je N'en Connais Pas la Fin" (which may or may not be a Jeff Buckley cover under all that distortion), and its cinematic tendencies inform the gentle reverie of "Blue Day for Croatoa" (at once dreamy and foreboding). The latter also serves as informal launch pad for a loose triptych that begins with the bruising aggression of "Release" (which introduces some stunning clean singing midway through), passes through the groove-laden explorations of "Revolve" (featuring new wave-like guitar chimes and throbbing bass reminiscent of U2), and then wraps up on the "here comes the pain" promise of "Renew" (which moves steadily from shrill melodic echoes to earth-shaking power chord catharsis before being shockingly snuffed out mid-croak). Finally, there's the epic title track's rather predictable but still expertly executed gradual rise to power over 11 unwearied minutes, running the length and breadth of genre possibilities without really adding anything new along the way, but making it difficult to begrudge Rosetta for their very capable efforts. That last point pretty much summarizes the verdict here, or rather, a hung jury of sorts, because A Determinism of Morality positions Rosetta not as clear-cut, groundbreaking post-metal saviors capable of taking the style to another evolutionary place, but as well-seasoned stalwarts able enough to keep things fresh long enough to get there, by other means…hopefully. Quoting from the Police: "When the world is running down, you make the best with what's still around." Rosetta are surely among the trance-metal best.

Biography

Formed: Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Not to be confused with the same-named alt-rock outfit from Michigan, Philadelphia's Rosetta carve at the same epic trance metal trough dug by bands such as Neurosis, Isis, and Cult of Luna before them. Formed in the summer of 2003 by Michael Armine (vocals/samples/electronics), J. Matthew Weed (guitar, violin), David Grossman (bass), and Bruce McMurtrie Jr. (drums), the group hooked up with Translation Loss Records a year later, and duly delivered its ambitious...
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A Determinism of Morality, Rosetta
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