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Album Review: Building Rome – Nightmare

Concept albums tend to fall into two categories, those that clearly tell a story and those where the so-called concept is only apparent to the band. ‘Nightmare’, the fourth release by St Louis natives Building Rome, is unfortunately in the latter camp. The album is apparently loosely based on the film Jacob’s Ladder, though I wouldn’t know had I not read this information on the band’s website. However, just because the story is hard to read does not mean this is a terrible album, in fact ‘Nightmare’ is actually quite good. The album is upbeat and full of energy, not to mention really well produced. The only moments were Building Rome suffer is when they sacrifice the raw energy for an attempt at raw emotion. Building Rome’s sound is extremely hard to pinpoint, musically they are akin to the angular poppunk of Billy Talent, yet the vocals provided by frontman Jon Heisserer are very similar to Billie Joe Armstrong. The mish mash of sound actually serves the band well in allowing them to create a niche of their own.

The album starts with track ‘What Are We Fighting For?’ bursting straight out of the blocks, full of energy and brooding guitar riffs, making a cracking start for the album. The title track carries on in a similar pattern, with vocalist Jon’s distinct voice creating an addictive melody. There are moments in this track that sound like Goldfinger, yet they keep the dramatic elements of the first track to great effect. The cleverly titled ‘Dr Doctor’ is the album’s best track by a long measure sticking to the upbeat nature of previous tracks. ‘Dr Doctor’ also has a great cheesy chorus which was surely written with big sing alongs in mind. Building Rome flirt with other bands sound throughout; AFI on ‘Haunting Me’; Alkaline Trio on ‘Take Cover (Burn)’ and even Wheatus on ‘Bring Me Home’, yet this continuous flirtation coupled with a refusal to outright copy has allowed the band to develop its own unique sound.

Building Rome hardly falter at any point on this record, but on the two tracks they do trip up on, they fall hard. When Building Rome shut down the energy and strip their sound down (‘Bring Me Home’), they lose the element of interest to their sound. ‘Bring Me Home’ is bland and turgid, and lets down the rest of the disc. The following track and album closer ‘If This Is Where It Ends…’ is not as bad, but largely pointless. I can see why the band went for the track as a way of rounding up the story, but as the story is really hard to read anyway, the track is redundant. Despite these faults, ‘Nightmare’ is a very solid effort, and with a few more high profile supports there is no reason why these boys can’t go far.

4/5

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Dan Issitt

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