Rome Burns
Non-specific Ghost Stories
~reviewed by Mick Mercer

I am not often astonished, but the fact no UK label has bowled in to release this strikes me as genuinely disturbing, and if there's a good US or German label who fancy signing one of the few genuinely remarkable Goth entities in our tiny, but highly becoming, scene then so be it. (Projekt should lap them up.) For if their demos last year were rawly invigorating and charming, this record takes on a more soothing glow, dazzling you with restraint and the best lyrics the UK Goth scene has actually witnessed since just before The Horatii climbed inside an old sock and rotted away to nothing.

It really is that simple. And it truly has to be immediately obvious, because the title track and opener is so hushed and vocally spiky, with double-edged lyrics, of memories as threat, you'll be hooked by a classic, or laughed at by fate. Think of Manuskript having audacious cousins, or The Psychedelic Furs being turned over by urchins. That's where they're coming from, and on the more synthy tracks the fact that a chorus might spout musical gold could, logically, draw PSB comparisons, but whereas Electro bands copy them slavishly, Rome Burns just have a singer with a sharply nasal voice, which is well controlled. Just as well, because you wouldn't want to miss the lyrics.

'ZD-576' isn't some muso industrial workout as you might fear, but a creepy fable, fleshed out through its flickering mood. 'Empty Samsara' is a tough little bugger with frisky guitar and they handle pace well, which is also only of only two faults with this record. Daevid (programming guru) or Nevla's guitar could be louder at times to compete with the vocals, and in turn draw more passion from Simon's voice rather than studied, observational coolness, and a couple more tracks which had took us on ferocious journeys would have made for a more satisfying whole. (I can't think what possessed them to leave off 'Red Riding', but that's band for you!) The other thing is 'The Nexus'. A simple tune with the steerage by vocals, it has some bracing guitar but drifts overall, and although it ends beautifully, it simply takes too long in doing so. That aside, it's class all the way.

'Seeking Mr Hyde' sees the musical swords unsheathed, and we're talking the balance of a samurai, with the guitar stirring, the vocals bitter and a chorus which is utterly gorgeous. This is as big as the title track and proof that labels need this band, just as anyone with a serious interest in the UK scene needs this album. There hasn't been a better UK Goth release in living memory, and that's simply a fact. Consider the great records I've reviewed from scenes which overlap with Goth (And Also The Trees, Unto Ashes) and this is up there with those. It has a mighty allure, and is one which will reveal more and more with each play while becoming increasingly essential to you.

'Waterbabes Drowning' may or may not be all religious metaphor, but it's something of a deceptively pleasant epic, bubbling steadily, and gently withdrawn, yet horribly poetic, beautifully dreamlike. I didn't understand 'Stonegarden' which follows very well, but there's probably more religious in there somewhere, so I wouldn't, and it's a stranger track, milder still, almost abstract at times, and far more emotive. Those two songs make for a fantastic middle gap, as they then creep in watchful mood through the extraordinary tale within 'Apocatastasis' with alarming imagery and great suspense, before deceiving with a sudden end.

'War Of The Pygmies' is standard Goth in many ways, assuming standards have been raised, and there's good, rolling foreboding mixed into the chatter and swing, before they close on the bright and bouncy 'Blue Boy' with it's tale of strangling, which pauses, chops around, becomes thicker and then ends demurely.

What more could anyone need to know that if you bypass this you're only letting yourself down? It is a work of magnificent inspiration, and I pity anyone who can't get a copy, for while it would have benefited from some more vigour, it's so head and shoulders above the rest I think they've also been designing stilts.