Tech Death Thursday: Roman Ring
Every Internet search function seems to think Roman Ring is actually Roman Reigns, but I assure you, this is much better.
I know some of you are looking at that cover thinking I’m about to try peddling you some Rings of Saturn-ass wanky nonsense, but you should know me better than that by now. First on the docket today is Roman Ring, a Chicago-based supergroup of sorts featuring members of Wounds, Immortal Bird, Through the Eyes of the Dead, and Warforged. With a pedigree like that, you could expect the music to be pretty damn good, and you’d be absolutely right.
As described on their Bandcamp, The Halogen follows the story of Charles, a US soldier subjected to government experiments with the goal of creating super-soldiers that have the ability to become incorporeal, creating the perfect spies and assassins. Naturally, this goes horribly wrong, sending Charles into a coma and eventually killing him. His consciousness awakens in an alternate dimension and is able to travel through time and space, and he believes he has become God. The album closes out on a haunting note as his presence fades in and out of our reality.
The reason I lay this all out for you is that the music illustrates the progression of the story in pretty spectacular fashion, much better than most concept albums can manage. The first two tracks, “Charles” and “Vatican City,” are built on a fairly straightforward attack of meaty riffs and dueling guitars, a muscle-and-bone death metal feel that portrays the presence of the physical (though “Charles” has some creepy dissonant bits, but we’ll get to that). The final haunting notes pave the way for “God Narcotic,” where the protagonist realizes he’s probably dead and things start to get weird. As we pass through eerie atmosphere built on a hazy dissonant motif, the music becomes surprisingly upbeat as Charles becomes fascinated with this new world. This passes relatively quickly, however, as the music disintegrates into heavier, stranger chords and ideas as the album progresses, closing out on a ghostly minimalist instrumental. The whole experience is musical storytelling at its finest.
While the album is chock full of great riffs and performances, and it all sounds clean without being overly processed, I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect record. I’m personally not terribly keen on the big, chugging riffs present on tracks two and three; they fit thematically, but they’re just not particularly interesting to my ears. The vocalist’s growls, both high and low, are robust- monstrous even- but I feel like he relies a little too much on his lows for much of the album. Obviously these won’t be issues for everyone, but there are a couple things that just didn’t quite click for me.
These are just minor gripes in the grand scheme of things, and they do little to diminish my enjoyment of the album. I’m all for bands experimenting like this, and The Halogen is very much a success. Even if you separate the songs from their storyline, this is great tech death, both artistic and earthly, powerful and smart. It’s all the more impressive knowing that it’s their first full-length album, and it has me excited to follow their work.