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Derivative of his own name, Rome is the recording moniker and project of Jerome Reuter from Luxembourg, and the guy's been prolifically churning what he's labelled as 'Chanson Noir' since 2005, and 'Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro' is his thirteenth album. Thirteenth?! Wow, that is prolificacy right there! I'm a newcomer to his stuff, though, when this arrived for review, so I can only judge this on its own merits, rather than within the context of his musical evolution over the past 10+ years... and it'd be natural to presume there has been some sort of evolution, what with twelve albums preceding this one.

First impressions? I'm not sure about 'Chanson Noir', but this is most certainly 'Neofolk Noir', as this has a lot of neofolk idioms crafted around fairly bleak moods and atmospheres. And there's an emphatically melancholic slant, too... albeit there's also a liberal dose of uplifting moments that seem to permeate the bleakness. Optimism that shines through the mire of gloom. It's almost as if Reuter is delivering a message of all hope is not lost, despite songs' lyrics dealing with such themes of global turmoil, in what's been described in press blurb as "Europe's dissolving unity, or its relations to the US and the fragile fraternity of its nations." (look no further than 'The West Knows Best' for such). Ultimately, though, he eschews any sense of didacticism, as a lot of lyrics, while they can be fairly blatant in places, and interpreted in a certain way when veering more towards the metaphorical, remain ambiguous.

Musically, it all feels quite epic... in a very slow-burn kind of way. There's no sense of potent immediacy here; rather, Reuter takes his time in a fairly laidback way, to convey the moods and atmospheres of his compositions. And this album is rich with atmosphere. Acoustic guitar strumming forms the core of most tracks, but this has been embellished with polyphony (backing vocals and spoken word passages) and other layers in the instrumentations. It's all very affective if you give it time for its affects to work. That was my experience with the album, anyway. Reuter hasn't got the most engaging of voices. His deep, resonant tones command attention, for sure, but it can feel a tad moribund at times. However, give this time, like I said, catch it in the right mood, and it can be engaging on its own terms.

So, other personnel that've been involved in helping Reuter realise his latest vision? Well, it's largely the man himself, although Tom Gatti has been credited with "additional instrumentation and arrangements", and a number of backing vocalists and spoken word contributors are also listed. And, all in all, it's a fine effort that's likely to excite those who love dwelling in melancholically conceived, atmospheric neofolk.
Review by Mark Holmes
15th February 2019
1) Sacra entrata; 2) A New Unfolding
3) Who Only Europe Know
4) The West Knows Best
5) Feindberührung
6) Fliegen wie Vögel
7) One Lion's Roar
8) Black Crane
9) La fin d'un monde
10) The Legion of Rome
11) Uropia O Morte
12) Desinvolture
"...likely to excite those who love dwelling in melancholically conceived, atmospheric neofolk."