Rome are a Luxembourgish neofolk band founded in November 2005 as a main output for the songs of Jérôme Reuter. Though Reuter is the main creative force in the band, he performs live with a range of musicians who also contribute performances on various studio recordings.
Reuter has been a prominent supporter of Europe throughout his career and has played numerous shows in various Ukrainian cities on his European tours before and during the current conflict. Indeed, his appearances have been used to gather donations for a refugee shelter in Lviv.
`Gates Of Europe` is the band`s latest release and it`s a kind of concept album that proceeds almost chronologically through the first year of war trough a variety of songs.
The album begins with title track `Gates Of Europe`, a poignant and haunting collage of the sounds of February 24th, 2022, the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In `The Death Of A Lifetime` we have a folk / electronica number that has lyrics that offer a defiance against the invasion and the promise to take the country back. A reflective but heartbreaking listen.
‘Yellow and Blue’ was written during one of Reuter’s wartime tours of Ukraine. The slogan “courage has two colours” is borrowed from an early Ukrainian campaign and expanded by Reuter into an authentic battle anthem. We have a more stripped back offering in `How Came Beauty Against This Blackness` with vocals and strummed guitar along with accompanying harmonies possibly reflecting on the previous close links between the invading country and the invaded. The sense of heartache and incomprehension at what has happened is almost tangible on this number.
`Eagles Of The Trident` is drum led and a rousing encouragement to “take up arms” or to answer your country`s call in time of need. We have a deeply thoughtful folk like consideration with `Whom The Gods Wish To Destroy` addressing a view on the perpetrators of the current situation and as to why. The phrase `Those Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad` a phrase that refers to being deceived was never more aptly used during this number.
`Our Lady Of The Legion` asks the question as to where Europa ends over a folk tinged soundscape that appears to pick up volume and becomes fairly anthemic as it evolves. The question is left, hanging unanswered. There`s an eerie opening to `Marauder` which is a kind of nigh on spoken word poetic observation on the distress of conflict.
`The Black Axis` is another powerful listen with lyrics that portray an uncomfortable truth. There`s probably no need for an explanation to `The Ballad Of Mariupol` as on listening, it will tell you all you need to know. Mariupol the second-largest city in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine was decimated by Russian forces after a three-month long siege.
`Going Back To Kyiv` is a personal reflection from the singer on returning to the Ukraine’s capitol city while `The Brightest Sun` is more of a protest song.
`Olenivka Rain` may be a metaphor for the pain endured in this eastern Ukrainian city where a nearby Russian-operated prison was destroyed, killing 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war. The album closes with `Archives of Silence` which is a quietly shared folk like song that sounds similar to the Ukrainian national anthem. An emotional way to close out this release.
`Gates Of Europe` is a really thought provoking listen and at times can be fairly hard to listen to due to it`s unflinching subject matter but if there is one album that I’d encourage you to listen to this year it’s this.
Rating 9.5 / 10