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|German Import| Into the heart... With Flowers from Exile, the Luxembourgish folk formation ROME surpass their work to date, which already includes three full-length albums in just a few years. Just as early releases were apocalyptic and aggressive in nature, the expressionistically-tinged CD Masse Mensch Material (2008) could be said to have a revealed inner vision. ROME's universe was expanded by proud resignation and sweet melancholy.
The latest album, Flowers from Exile goes a step further in this direction. Similar to the early albums of the legendary songwriter LEONARD COHEN, stories from the (inner) exile are told here with fatalistic gestures and a dark timbre; stories of the longing for a lost homeland, of loneliness and eternal travels, but also of unexpected friends far away and the actual homeland in your own heart. Songs such as "The Secret Sons of Europe" and "To Die Among Strangers" (which was previously released as a CD single) form a song cycle full of metaphors for estrangement – the poetry of longing. Highly detailed arrangements use the sound of the flamenco guitar as well as mysterious samples, pulsating beats and sad melodies. In ROME's songs there lives a stoic sense of the melodramatic. As well as Cohen, one must look to icons such as TOM WAITS and the late JOHNNY CASH in order to be able to describe the lyrics and voice of front man Jerome Reuter.
Flowers from Exile is just as much an emotional as a critical work. The personally stamped album of a modern singer-songwriter which tells of journeys both within and without. Jerome Reuter's moving vocals and Patrick Damiani's complex musical arrangements leave the musical roots of folk far behind and send these flowers from exile to all listeners who are willing and capable of feeling the dignity, the hope and the pride behind the lyrics and who are prepared to recognise themselves in those restless spirits whom the twelve part song cycle conjure up. Into the heart...
Rome's bold and prismatic vision is anchored by one of the strongest vocalists I've heard this year. Jerome Reuter's commanding and resonant voice is a significant part of this band's appeal, but it's the exotic and manifold musical styles used throughout the record that generate the most excitement and make Flowers From Exile a joy to hear.
Jerome Reuter's deep tenor recalls the deliveries of both Dave Gahan and Nick Cave. Coincidentally, the music he writes draws from the same deep well of drama, personal confession, damnation, and redemption implemented by both of those writers. On this record Reuter has more in common with the likes of Nick Cave or someone like Bob Dylan than he does with a pop star, but his music isn't a simple reflection of any one musical genre. Flowers From Exile is supposedly based upon the events of the Spanish Civil War, a conflict in which Retuer's family partook. The various samples used throughout the album, as well as its exotic arrangements, intimate an atmosphere of conflict and resignation, but specifics never quite materialize the way they would in folk music or songs of political protest. More plainly, Flowers tackles the familiar topics of isolation, desperation, and displacement whether it be political, familial, or religious in scope. Reuter's use of broad metaphor makes personal investment easy and ultimately lends the album a melodramatic tint, but the band's restraint and honesty takes the cheap catharsis of melodrama and converts it into a spectrum of various intrigues and ambiguities. In this way, the band's claim that they are influenced by chanteurs makes sense, especially if that influence were to include the likes of Jacques Brel or Serge Gainsbourg. As is the case with nearly every album conducted by a poet-musician, there are spots of lyrical extravagance that border on cloying, but Flowers' many merits make such excesses forgivable.
Many of those merits can be attributed to Rome's other half, Patrick Damiani. Responsible for producing Flowers and writing its arrangements, Damiani populates Reuter's world with the sounds of field recordings, foreign voices, martial rhythms, atmospheric howls, and a variety of musical styles from flamenco to pseudo-industrial collage. Despite that variety, the album stays focused and never degenerates into a formless mush. Comparisons to famous "neofolk" or "apocalyptic folk" groups makes sense to some small degree however the band's versatility is enough to distinguish them from groups like Death in June or Sol Invictus, not to mention their subtlety and restraint. Rome concentrates the majority of their energy on quality songwriting, a fact crystallized in both the memorable melodies and diverse forms employed throughout Flowers. The group rarely falls back on the verse-chorus-verse formula, they never rely on atmosphere or pomp to hold their music up, and the train of samples and instruments that pepper the record gel with the songs more often than they clash.
Patrick garnishes Jerome's songs with layers and layers of instrumentation, but uses the guitar to hold his ideas together. So, while welters of noise sizzle beneath some songs and operatic voices swell up beside others, Damiani's strumming moves forward and provides both a musical and narrative momentum. And the best songs have quite a bit of momentum to them. "The Secret Sons of Europe" and "To Die Among Strangers" are heavy and propulsive numbers with explosive qualities. One is a rhythmically intricate piece with sharp corners, sampled choruses, understated solos, and a gilded horn section. The other is an emotionally heavy performance accented by a quickly strummed guitar and an elegant violin part. They put the album's slowly developed tension to good use and, as a result, are two of the more memorable songs on the record. Rome's slower, more traditional songs do not inspire equally glowing reactions, however. Both "Odessa" and the titular closer feel somewhat empty or unfinished next to their richly decorated brethren. These songs are no less strong than any of the others, but they represent the places where Damiani's production does not rise the occasion. This is a minor annoyance, but it reveals that Reuter's voice is only as compelling as the music that surrounds it. Flowers From Exile is a gem of a record nonetheless, and its lackluster ending does little to compromise its many virtues.
I know it may seem like I can just naturally can keep up with almost everything going on in music, but I can’t and sometimes rely on friends and other people to guide me towards something I may like but not know of. Recently one of our artists brought up Rome in a conversation assuming I knew who they were, but my knowledge on the Martial Industrial & Apocalyptic Folk scene of the past decade is almost non-existent. So I decided to take him up on his recommendation and sought out some releases from the Luxembourg band.
Flowers From Exile is Rome’s 4th full-length album in what I’ve come to find is an extremely impressive catalog whose Death by June influence is worn like a proudly earned badge. With Flowers From Exile, Rome releases their most realized and challenging outing of their young career. While Rome’s lyrical scope on Flowers From Exile may still share a lot in common with that Douglas P’s the music is more open to experimenting with who they are as a band. The gentle acoustic guitars and atmospheric tape-loops are now met with the worldly and exotic elements usually reserved for crooners like Nick Cave, Leonard Cohn & Tom Waits. Rome’s willingness to transcend being simply another Martial act gives way to not only an esoteric depth but the sort of haunting charm that’s long been lost from bands mining this sound.
The forth album belonging to the Luxembourgians tends to detach itself from the very impressive Ambient/Industrial dimension found on the first two albums. The explosive „MMM” followed, an album that warned us that Rome’s focus wants to move more on melody, touching onto Pop and more rhythm. Having said that, the interludes and the sound effects proved once again that Rome are within the Dark dimension. What the two have not given up on is the NeoFolk side, very well represented on some tracks belonging to the album released last year.
The teaser launched a month ago has failed to impress me, and I don’t really see how it could have managed that anyway, if we are to take in mind that out of the 4 sequences included, two were from the first and third album (somewhat remixed) and “To Die Among Strangers” was a song that was used as a preface for the new work. The only atypical track but with a complete Dark Ambient feel is “Mourir A Madrid”, a remarkable song that emanates a sad aura, characteristic to the theme developed on “FFE”. But what is the theme? The Spanish Civil War and the exile of the thousands of people who lived through those terrible times.
It seems that Jerome’s uncles family went through that, hence… Spain. And since we are mentioning this country, it mustn’t surprise us hearing flamenco rhythms introduced for the first time ever into the sound of Rome!!! In fact, the new tracks are rather varied, different both as structure but also as interpretation: we have classical guitar, predominant bass, bombastic percussion, essential violins, modern effects, traditional elements, male choirs and sopranos, different voices on the background… everything revolving around Jerome’s superb voice, with an exceptional low tone! From the beginnings represented by Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and all the way to Nick Cave or Johnny Cash but continuing on the old Death In June line, Jerome Reuter shows us once again that he knows how to interpret a song in a superb manner!
Patrick Damiani is a very talented guitar player and this is probably a well known fact to the listeners of aggressive metal, from the excellent Avant-garde Metal project Le Grand Guignol (ex-Vindsval). In this NeoFolk project he is showing us a less than complex approach (not to call it simplistic) but irreproachably executed! Considering that the 12 tracks were recorded in Patrick’s studio, you can imagine that it all sounds perfect, from sound to the most discreet of mixing… Just as in the case of the previous albums, the English language lyrics are reigning, but other languages like German, Spanish or even… Romanian, aren’t missing either! I will not get into the details of describing the tracks as it would mean to ruin the harmony of an album conceived in a spectacular manner, but I can assure you that you will not find yourself be bored by any of the tracks and you will not find many similar elements wihtin them either… excepting, of course, those three indivisible components: Jerome’s voice, Patrick’s guitar and, something new, Nikos’s violin.
Those addicted to Industrial Martial sounds will be disappointed by this seemingly simplistic approach, ballad-like and too ‘light’, same with those who were appreciating the Dark Ambient note and the tangled up accords found on some previous tracks. On the other hand, the Epic dimension seems to be more potent than ever, the catchy sound probably being able to save a sort of monotony that struck a live audience! If we are to judge from the point of view of the NeoFolk seen, I am not sure if Rome has taken a step ahead, but it is most definite that they now have the opportunity of breaking some barriers, their music now being more modern, with influences from various styles, which all brought together frame a style of their own! But what is strange still: it releases an impressive mood and magnetism after every audition! Review by Doru / http://www.kogaionon.com
Always changing and developing all the time, Luxembourg's Rome presents a reduction in sound with beautiful results.
Don't look back to the previous releases from Luxembourg's Rome; this band develops all the time, always changing and making clear decisions about its growth, and the decision on Flowers from Exile is strong: the reduction. The reduction to a pure, minimalist soundscape based on acoustic guitar surrounded by collages of electronic or real noises, accentuated by unobtrusive percussion and violin... and, of course, based on the deep, melancholic voice of the singer JeRome Reuter, who wrote the music and lyrics, and produced by Patrick Damiani. In fact, many of these songs are in the tradition of French chansons and even of Leonard Cohen. A man with his guitar tells us tales about the inner exile, the desire about a lost homeland, the state of a displaced person, an outcast, and all this on the grounds of the Spanish Civil War, which actually has some autobiographic roots as a part of Reuter's family was involved in this time. Intellectual but emotional, beauty and pride beside sadness; the lyrics are mainly in English, but there are German, French, and Spanish fragments, too. Reuter calls himself a European, beyond the bounds of languages and political borders.
This is a silent, lyrical, dark pearl inside of the wild, confusing river of the music industry; even dark enough to be invited to the Wave Gotik Treffen, 2009 in Leipzig, Germany - the world's biggest goth event. Only the runtime of the album could have been longer as you're just deep in the mood of the words and sounds, when suddenly, the time is over. Encore! Rating: 3.5/4
Grave, resolute and romantic, the sounds of Rome travel down to the battlefields of the heart. The deep, bellowing vocals of Jerome Reuter are the centerpiece of this brooding neofolk album, as they hang over lush acoustic guitars and scattered samples of European poetry and martial speeches. The lyrics are exquisite, evoking the lonesome spirit of the soldier, or the dreaming revolutionary, longing for distant memories of love or some stern vision of the cause.
Sounding like a cross between Tom Waits and Tenhi, Rome blend a stark, war-time atmosphere with beautiful folk instrumentation. Strings, piano, choral lines and flamenco guitars weave their way across the face of this album, painting faded pictures of the Occident. “Accidents of Gesture” is slow-boiling and suspenseful, as Reuter’s baritone leads in foreboding percussion and soft drones. “Odessa” is love-lorn, centered on minimal finger-picking and elating vocal harmonies. “Secret Sons of Europe” features galloping Spanish guitar lines. “Legacy of Unrest” speaks of being torn between two sides, over subtle piano arrangements that glide across refrains of “it feels like spring again.”
Both intensely emotional and melodically stunning, Rome shines a light on the daring complexity and ambition of the neofolk genre. The songs here are much more than exercises in nostalgia; they are memorable and highly detailed pieces of art that slowly reveal themselves over time. The colors here are sepia-toned and warm, like the sands of Italy, Spain and Northern Africa, the sun-scorched burial grounds of distant conflicts. The sounds here are not isolated in history however, as Reuter’s powerful delivery recalls many doomed struggles, the faltering campaigns of the human spirit. One of the year’s best. Rating: 5/5