Review Summary: Space age theatre.
‘Progressive’ music is an intriguing direction at the very least. It requires a special neck for instrumental finesse and song writing supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (thank you, thesaurus) enough not to make the songs crumble underneath the instrumental trips. And the genre also spawned a gutload of different substyles, reaching from your usual rockisms to pure metal. Now, pop music has taken its toll and rode the Prog horse.
The Burning of Rome is an outstandingly theatrical band. They combine an almost phantasmagorical amount of odyssean themes to their music and their delicate sense of instrumentation and song-writing always manages to convoke a fair amount of adventure and excitement, even in the cases of slower, calmer tracks. There isn’t really a lot that can be said about them, but there is a multitude to be heard.
This album is a goddamn banger, start to finish. From the opening chilling chords of the title track and the synthetically layered symphonic arrangement with dual male/female vocals it simply slaps you in the face. What follows is a ridiculously catchy, multi-level constructed delicatessen of sound and instrumentation. Sure, the production might drown some of the punch, in order to make the music sound slightly more cosmic and sugary, but the massively overwhelming melodic component of it all brings it back to glory.
The concept of Year of the Ox
is rather hard to understand or follow, but it does a great job making you believe that it doesn’t really matter. Eventually you just stop looking for a clear plotline and just accept that what you are experiencing is almost a dream-like level of exploration of this strange new world on the verge of spiritual and technological nirvana with all of its zaniness and kooky charm. You feel like on a cosmodrome in a utopian cosmopolis built on ambition greater than anything in the world. But it never becomes pretentious, which is quite a rare trait among the sort of albums this is a part of.
And even though songs like the driving “Terrible Tales from Tocqueville”, cocky “Better Than He” or arena-sized “The Complete Robot”, there is still a fair amount of space dedicated to the gentler tracks, such as “Sister Francis” with all of its musical kindness, chanting “Love is a terrible, terrible thing.” Or such is the case with “Champagne and Cigarettes”, which is also the softest and calmest cut on the entire album, only consisting of sophisticated vocals and pillowy soft guitars.
This album may be an over the top attraction with more ambition than sense, but it has a charisma and ridiculous amount of charm that is simply impossible to resist. The band’s natural enthusiasm and the wackiness of the world they built are irresistible. It’s a poppy, silly, but also shreddingly gorgeous ride that just doesn’t let go for even a moment.