A reflection of today’s society: that’s how Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro could be summed up, the new creature conceived by Jerome Reuter and his project Rome, providing neofolk since 2006. Exactly one year after Hall Of Thatch, a work that was both inward-looking and apocalyptic, the artist from Luxembourg goes back to the old days with numerous hints to his pre-2012 production.
While Reuter’s political views were filtered in the past through his storytelling approach, without waving his opinions around, it’s inevitable to find something more in this new work, the outcome of an attentive look around: we’re living in turmoil, tough times in which communities turn to authoritarian men in order to find easy solutions and remedies for their fears. Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro is exactly this, a cross section of contemporary Europe, but also a vision that can apply to more general human dynamics.
A certain return to martial sounds can be perceived from the artwork already, and by the apparently rigid structure of the album, divided into two sections (“Apertura” and “Clausura”) representing the rise and fall of regimes and men in power. The first half opens with the magniloquent “Sacra Entrata”, a rich composition with organs and large-scale arrangements, a call to arms in view of “A New Unfolding”. It’s a constant emotive crescendo, a compendium of the fears of modern man, whose identity appears threatened as expressed in “Who Only Europe Know” («An endless ocean of bodies / May well swallow it all»); an unstoppable rise up until the inevitable action with “Fliegen Wie Vögel”, only the birds are shimmering bombers instead. After that, the inexorable decline with “Clausura”: people see their leaders turn their back on them, there’s nothing else to do than see their own nation betrayed, in ruin. The nice and catchy single “One Lion’s Roar” is the illusion before the realisation with “The Legion Of Rome” and “Uropia O Morte”.
By now, it should be clear that Rome didn’t really split hairs here. This crude representation of reality is sharp and narrated through a roller-coaster of sounds in balance between a more folk-songwriter style, as in “The West Knows Best” (a reference to the relations between the Old Continent and Trump’s United States) and “Who Only Europe Knows”, reminiscent of Roger Waters’ singing, and elements from the past, for which examples are unnecessary as they are scattered through the whole album. This duality is enriched by different vocal contributions: from Texas neofolk duo Awen’s Erin and Katrin Powell to others both in German and Italian, and also an excerpt of the controversial speech by Enoch Powell against immigration, Rivers Of Blood.
Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro is a direct work, but not a shallow one, with a pro-European soul at its base. The right album at the right time: at the dawn of 2019, during a period full of uncertainties, it’s good to have a snapshot of today’s social landscape, without shouting an opinion but letting it to be foreseen through the lines, showing people the unavoidable fate of these social phenomenons.