Live at the Complex in Los Angeles, CA on April 10, 2015
Written & Photographed by Tracy T. / T. Terrorist Photography
Additional photos provided by Michele Brittany.
It was fairly cool Friday evening in the Glendale neighborhood of Los Angeles while waiting in line at the Complex to see Rome, a Luxembourg-based martial neofolk project which I had long anticipated witnessing live on U.S. soil. The Complex is a relatively small venue with a 200+ capacity; the size itself is noticeable outdoors, although despite the somewhat limited space, it is an appropriate venue for shows which provide a more intimate atmosphere for both the performers and the audience. This was an ideal environment for Rome—as frontman Jerome Reuter has been well-known for performing in much more exclusive settings, including house shows and private acoustic sets. My anticipation had grown for months upon hearing about Rome’s return to North America—their first appearance here since 2012. With that in mind, this was a very special show as it was the first kick-off date for their California Campaign tour. At last, the wait was steadily beginning to pay off as the doors finally opened and the line was beginning to move; although the show was running a little later than scheduled, a momentous evening was progressing ahead for all of us.
Worm Ouroboros from San Fransisco were first to hit the stage—early preparations had already been made as their mic stands were decked out in festive LED lights as the rest of the stage was draped under a blanket of blue velvet lighting. Although I was vaguely familiar with Worm Ouroboros’ name, their music remained a mystery to me up until they took the stage. The group consists of three members: Lorraine Rath on vocals/bass duties, Jessica Way on vocals/guitar, and Aeosop Dekker on drums. Rath and Way were up front and center, both illuminated by the glow of their mic stands and capturing the audience’s attention by their alluring, high-ranged vocals which fell hand-in-hand with each melodious note as they echoed through the speakers. Their sound can be best described as a combination of minimalistic post-rock/doom elements that are accompanied by ethereally haunting female vocals. The audience remained captivated by this trio’s hypnotizing stage presence—it was simplistic in approach yet equally as enticing. Rath’s vocals were soothing and loud enough to be heard even from the patio outside the back of the venue. Although they are not a traditional doom metal band, percussionist Dekker has been most well-known for his contributions in Agalloch, which shine equally as well in Worm Ouroboros in their more percussion-highlighted songs. Rath and Way’s euphonic verses and slow-churning melodies were counterbalanced by Dekker’s relentless waves of cymbal clashing behind the kit. Their set was roughly around forty-five minutes long, accompanied by a fifteen-minute break before Daemonia Nymphe hit the stage next.
Daemonia Nymphe are a neofolk/medieval-themed ensemble from Athens, Greece whom I was also unfamiliar with prior to their performance. Although one element which was expected was their theatrical stage presence, which was unfortunately a bit limited due to the small and restrictive stage space that night. Nonetheless, when showtime arrived, vocalist/guitarist Spyros Giasafakis, 2nd guitarist Evi Stergiou, and their accompanying performance artist, Denise Moreno, all took the stage and were fully prepared to deliver an enticing aesthetic and musical performance. Giasafakis and Stergiou had decided to sit down while playing their acoustic guitars and enchanting us with their whispered traditional folk-inspired vocals. Moreno was cloaked in a vintage white dress and masquerade mask which concealed the upper half of her face, making various movements and gestures which followed along the rhythms of each song, occasionally utilizing various stage props such as a florescent white umbrella, silk drapery which resembled her dress, and a powdered, fairy dust-like substance to blow into the air. Although there were certain elements which came off as overly theatrical for my taste, it was fairly clear that Daemonia Nymphe put a lot of preparation and effort into their performances. Musically, their overall sound is a bit all over the place in terms of neofolk, traditional folk, and an ethereal/world appeal—a sound that was somewhat reminiscent to Dead Can Dance. Stergiou’s vocal range did not go unnoticed, as her high-ranged notes shook throughout the whole venue and lured us all in, along with Giasafakis’ chanting backing vocals at her side, who occasionally switched over to percussion duties. Despite the group having to be bunched up onstage, the overall aesthetic nature of their performance was both entertaining as well as visually compelling.
At last, it was time for Rome to enter and my excitement levels skyrocketed as Reuter and his band mates made their way on stage. This live performance consisted of Reuter on vocals/guitar, Patrick Kleinbauer on bass guitar, Tom Luciani on keyboard duties, and Laurent Fuchs on percussion. From the very beginning the group held together a good live chemistry and demonstrated as such by starting off with “The Accidents of Gesture” as their first song off of what is arguably the project’s most iconic release, Flowers from Exile. A large majority of the audience cheered and screamed with anticipation as Reuter began to sing the first lines of the track—chills ran down my spine as I was muttering each line alongside his voice, which sounded just as colossal as on his studio recordings. For the majority of live material (their entire set ran on for one hour and thirty minutes exactly), many of the songs in this setting were altered a bit differently which resembled heavier remixed versions of the originals—some classics which stood out that night were “Der Brandtaucher” and “To Die Among Strangers.” in which this was most noticeable. There was a slightly extended guitar solo and instrumental piece added onto “Der Brandtaucher” which I felt was a rather nice and lively addition. Although it was a bit difficult to hear Reuter’s vocals during certain bits and pieces throughout the evening (some of the electric guitar was overriding in volume), it was easy to distinguish each song for all the long-time Rome fans in the room. In between some of the classics, Reuter had decided to premiere a few new songs which had not yet been released—although we remained unfamiliar with the material, it was equally as catchy and effortless to latch onto.
Within the first half of their set, Reuter switched gears and pulled out his acoustic guitar—all the while expressing his gratitude and extending “thank you”s between songs towards the audience. The whole room clapped and cheered restlessly as he strummed away into “Neue Erinnerung” along with Luciani’s smooth, melodic additions on keyboard and the martial rhythm of the drums. The sound was equivalent to, if not better than the original. Other highlighted tracks throughout their lengthy set list included “The Consolation of Man,” which was performed as a much more harmonic version with more synthesizing effects added, and much less percussion. This track flowed right into “Das Feuerordal,” which was captivating enough to even, let’s say, make one blush a little and die. After nearly an hour of playing, the band had left the stage and, almost immediately, the crowd incessantly demanded an encore. Needless to say, Rome obliged and delivered another thirty minutes worth of serenades. “Swords to Rust – Hearts to Dust” was the final track which closed off the night. Rome certainly delivered quite a dosage of material to leave us all in awe in a night of remembrance. All performances this night left a positive impression, which has not been overridden by any other live show this year for me thus far.