Album Review: Max Romeo - World Of Ghouls
by Gardy Stein
Max "Iron Shirt" Romeo is back with a full album - just, please, throw any expectations you might have about it over board. World Of Ghouls, a 12-track oeuvre produced by his son Azizzi Romeo and released, of course, under the family label Charmax Music, has quite a few surprises in store for us. While the veteran is known for the Roots Rock stance he took in most every former album (from his initital works like Revelation Time to Horror Zone (2016) to the most recent Words From The Brave), Max confirms on this release that he has not lost touch with the development of modern Reggae music, riding the stylistically diverse riddims his son provides with skill and grace.
Starting with prominent drum and bass and howling wolves, World Of Demons is a dark piece (one of only three clearly distinguishable Roots tracks that form the first quarter of the album, to which the subsequent Intimidation and Disgrace also belong). Lyrically, it describes how the singer keeps his light shining despite the bad influences all around: "The world as I see it is full of demons, and I won't let the demons get a hold of me. Yes the world is so full of evil people, but I won't let their evil rub off on me..."
On the same powerful riddim as Xana Romeo's seminal album opener Holy (oooh the horns line!), Disgrace addresses young girls who do everything to comply with the media's prevalent images of bonnieness. "You were born a beautiful child, why would you want to change your style? The beauty of a woman is in her head, learn to love yourself instead!"
One For All, then, introduces the cutting-edge section alluded to above, including the matured voices of Xana and Azizzi Romeo which lend a unique touch to the reassuring lyrics. "Oh Jah give us strength to move on, so we can keep on marching." Completing the family affair, Max' second son, Romario Smith aka Lil Rolee, joins his brother Azizzi in the following Knowledge, which, according to them is "always there, it's free for all, don't have to thief it, so seek it and read it." The Trap-infused instrumental offers ample opportunity for the more Rap-inclined youngster to deliver, and daddy Max comes in with an unusually high-pitched verse. If you listen keenly, you will hear underlying Nyabinghi-drums which make the beat a special something. Nice one!
Flatten The Curve sees all three of the siblings, vocally united with their dad in the fight against Corona. In an exemplary intelligent way, the family Romeo supports the necessity of, for example, hygenic measures such as wearing masks or washing hands to overcome the pandemic. "The greatest thing to do is to stay alive!"
Talking about the need to Kick Back and relax at times, in comes another Trap-go-Reggae beat that almost seamlessly blends into Ten Toe Turbo, which seems to have the exact same speed and chords as the former. The subject is quite differnt though: while I first thought it's a nickname of the track's main character, it turns out that Mr. Romeo is singing about the unfailing loyalty of his feet. What a cute metaphor!
Deep into the spiritual side of things, Gates Of Jerusalem could become a wonderful anthem for the upcoming festive season, what with the rampampam chorus by Max and the angelic contribution of Xana Romeo. Another faith-related track (and one of the surprises I was talking about earlier) is Are You Coming Again, asking Jesus to hasten to our salvation - devotions time!
Back in Reggae waters (with a little sprinkle of Ska), Life Of A Farmer describes the everyday struggles of life from the standpoint of an earth-tilling, chicken-raising peasant. A strong message to cherish the simplicity that is, or should be, satisfying our daily needs. Sow the seeds and watch them grow! An emotional close, My Child is speaking of parental devotion, and while the instrumental is rather kitschy (at least in comparison to the grandeur Azizzi is capable of in riddims like Disgrace), Max Romeo's voice is at its best here - full of melody, love and pride.
World Of Ghouls is indeed a fine album, albeit one that will astonish fans because of the novel avenues the singer takes - but this is what good artistry is all about. The timing is perfect, too: in tune with the northern hemisphere's fall, receding light and length of days as well as the many festivities relating to and remembering the dead (Diá de Muertos, All Hallow's Eve, Totensonntag...), World Of Ghouls makes us aware of the spirit world all around us. Dive into Max Romeo's mystical realm which, however, is very down-to-earth and easily accessible to everyone. An exciting addition to his discography!
Max Romeo - World Of Ghouls
DIGITAL RELEASE [Charmax Music]
Release date: 11/19/2021
01. World Of Ghouls
04. One For All feat. Xana Romeo & Azizzi Romeo
05. Knowledge feat. Azizzi Romeo & Lil Rolee
06. Gates Of Jerusalem feat. Xana Romeo
07. Kick Back
08. Ten Toe Turbo
09. Flatten The Curve feat. Azizzi Romeo, Xana Romeo & Lil Rolee
10. Are You Coming Again
11. Life Of A Farmer
12. My Child