The Burning of Rome
Year of the Ox (Surfdog)
There are great live bands, and there are bands who make great albums—and the two don't cross over as often as you'd expect. In the studio, an artist has access to a wide array of equipment that can make a recording sound a specific way, which can be extremely difficult to replicate live—not to mention the hassle of having to bring more equipment on stage. Meanwhile, an intense live dynamic can be tough to capture in a recording. Even the best live acts sometimes can't fit all that lightning into such a little bottle.
The Burning of Rome have a reputation for being a great live band, and they live up to it every time, with an infectious energy and larger-than-life songs that practically demand to be heard in person. To date, their recordings haven't quite lived up to their live performances. They've been good, certainly—especially 2012's With Us—but something still felt missing.
Such is not the case with the band's fourth album, Year of the Ox. It's an ambitious and sprawling album, as big as the band's ever sounded. From the opening rise and eventual, explosive climax of the title track, The Burning of Rome send a clear message that they've graduated to another level.
To be clear, Year of the Ox still sounds like The Burning of Rome—they've just amplified and enhanced their strengths and embraced a much brighter and expansive studio sound in the process. After the intense rush of the title track, the band proves its mettle at melancholy art pop on "God of Small Things," which is built on big, gothic hooks and dreamy effects—and the occasional addition of vocoder.
There are still some oddball flights of fancy, like the spaghetti-western rock of "Terrible Tales from Tocqueville" and the sea-shanty prog rock of "Space Age Stockholm Syndrome." But all it takes is a spin of "Better Than He" or closing track "Animal" (featuring The Melvins' Dale Crover) to hear the kind of power the band wields. I'll bet these songs sound great live.