This is an album dealing with the true horrors of modern life in its extreme, red in tooth, claw and automatic rifle. One can point to the comparative lyrical and musical directness of this album, but the one thing which could never be decried is the sheer heart and soul that this music contains.
Okay, first things first – divest yourself of any idea, natural though it may be, that this is anything remotely to do with Italy. In fact, Rome is the name of a project helmed by one Jerome Reuter, who actually hails from the ‘nobody’s first guess’ of Luxembourg. This is an album which I had been anticipating, having reviewed the previous Rome offering, Hegemonikon, and found it to be excellent and unsettling in equal amounts. It was an album which took a vague lyrical concept down the darkest and most unnerving rabbit-holes of sonic dread and doom-laden poetry that it would be possible to imagine, and as such was a fascinating listen – if not one to take a cheery drive to, unless you planned to do a Thelma And Louise and drive off a cliff, that is. I wanted more. And now that this new album has come along, I have it, and yet by the same token I have not. Let me explain.
Musically this is cut from a similar, if slightly more acoustic and less experimentally electronic cloth than Hegemonikon, harking back more to the original Rome description of ‘dark folk’. This stripping back of the music also extends to the lyrics, as there are no creepy allusions to nebulous dread here – rather, this is a work concerned with real life horrors. Because this is an album entirely written around the current situation in Ukraine and the very real human tragedy unfolding on a daily basis. And there is no conflict of interest when it comes to taking sides either, as Jerome throws his support and lyrical backing behind Ukraine in every conceivable way. This is something which would not be difficult to surmise even from looking at such song titles as Yellow And Blue, The Ballad Of Mariupol, Olenivka Rain and Going Back To Kyiv, but that only tells half the story of the sheer heart and depth of feeling which bleeds from these tracks.
It’s an album to listen to as a single piece most of all, with its overall effect cumulative as one listens, but there are some undoubted highlights. The enchanting balladry of Our Lady Of The Legion leading via the haunting Marauder into the powerfully dramatic sturm und drang of The Black Axis is a magnificent self-contained trilogy, while Eagles Of The Trident and the uplifting anthem of Yellow And Blue are similar peaks. There’s nothing over the five minute mark, however, and the overall impression is that individual pieces should not overshadow the whole. One can certainly imagine this music bringing real defiance and spirit into the hearts of the Ukrainian people, which one would imagine would be the hope of the artist himself, as this is clearly a work which is very close to his soul.
From a purely musical perspective, do I enjoy this as much as Hegemonikon? Hand on heart, I would have to say not quite, as I fell in love with the truly fascinating obfuscation of existential conceptual gloom which hung over that record like the blackest of clouds, but then again, this is quite clearly a work conceived and executed in quite a different way entirely. There is no need to rely on allusions to unnamed fears and nightmares when real people (on both sides, let us not forget) are losing their lives on a daily basis. This is an album dealing with the true horrors of modern life in its extreme, red in tooth, claw and automatic rifle. One can point to the comparative lyrical and musical directness of this album, but the one thing which could never be decried is the sheer heart and soul that this music contains. It’s here to remind us all that evil walks the earth in very real forms, and victims are created from it every day, and it seeks both to condemn the situation and embolden and provide support to those most in need of it. And for that reason it is without any shadow of a doubt an important artistic statement. Sometimes, things are just too big to ignore, and this album confronts them head on. One can only applaud.