My Kingdom Music
Words by Lewd Scoff
When in Rome, do what the Romans do. If that was the case, fresh-faced millennials straight out of high school on their gap year holiday would be forming awesome gothic rock/post-punk inspired bands like Rome’s ARTIFICIAL HEAVEN and giving the Mona Lisa and other European tourist attractions a complete miss.
Even though her cheeky grin (all the way from the Louvre Museum in Paris) would imply they have written an awesome semi-concept album called Digital Dreams that lyrically is loosely based on the acceleration of the digital revolution and its effects on the lives of us all, their lead single would be called Fall Away and have a kick-ass backbeat with a vocalisation that sits comfortably between The Sisters Of Mercy’s Andrew Eldritch and The Tea Party’s Jeff Martin. Whispered into the ears of Roman sweethearts would be emotional engaging lyrics such as :
Brand new fool conquest
Staying pure as falling tears
Sparkling stars and teasing lips’
The ladies would swoon and the gentlemen of the great city of Rome would request government deportation of said fictional millennials due to the masterful songwriting and in the pocket production by Giuseppe Orlando (Inno, The Foreshadowing, Novembre) taking over the scene and soon the gothic rock / post punk world sparking an international scandal that would result in the actual members of ARTIFICIAL HEAVEN (Fabio Oliva – vocals, Fed Venditti – guitars, Lorenzo Valerio – drums, Stefano Romani – bass) finally taking credit for their collection of hard rockin’ bangers which I will now rant on about.
Second track Log On has a dark foreboding intro that leads into some cool Megadethesque ‘bararrt bararrt’ guitar lines as we get the first conceptual-based lyrics on the album.
‘Big bro will make us freak out
Log on your soul to you’
Orwellian concepts aside, this song has a great transition into double-time mid-way courtesy of guitarist Fed Venditti that, once is said and done, has the rest of the band melding the feel back into that brooding half-time feel that started the track.
Kick drum stomper Electric Rain is up next and drummer Lorenzo Valerio has more energy than a sugared – up toddler in a jumping castle and does not let up with a great post-disco beat setting the verse up to be a live in concert boogie fest. Given the fluid and low octave thickness of the vocals, this is needed to keep the vigour and the rest of the band also compliment this musical concept, always sounding fresh, frenetic, and full of zeal.
As soon as I saw track 4’s title Ennio, I knew what I was in store for. A stunning tribute to fellow Roman composer Ennio Morricone that has ‘intro to a Sergio Leone’ movie woven into its fabric. This lyric-free pastiche has all the trademarks of a great Western soundtrack and serves well as a breather as we delve into the 5th track, Automatic Love which, transitions from the former instrumental track gracefully courtesy of the marching beat and string samples. The moderato tempo of 88 beats per minute and catchy as fuck melody over a lush I/iii/flat vii chord progression is just pure saccharine to the ears and really does encapsulate the Roman influence a band from Rome should have. Francesco Sosto really steps up as guest keyboardist on this piece, as the strings mutate from slow swelling legato to frenetic half arpeggios that help the track travel through its bridge before returning to the previous ambiance for a powerful outro. Album fave.
Do they surf in Rome? Because if they did, album halfway point Dark Room would be the soundtrack. As the title suggests, this is another concept song, and it doesn’t shy away from the dystopian themes of alienation under the guise of communication/connection. Whilst it is obvious that English is vocalist Fabios’ second language, the simplicity in the narrative helps hammer the point home.
Stop trolling, get out of your darkened room, and assimilate with others in real life (that’s IRL net nerds, just in case you were wondering. It is good to have different opinions and discuss them peacefully with others face to face). Or, to put it bluntly and as a classic trope, ‘get out and touch the grass and talk to others.’
Lie to Me and its awesome triplet kick, kick snare pattern post intro is up next and is the album’s most progressive song so far. Weaving through tempo changes that compliment the melody and chordal suggestions. We finally hear from bassist Stefano Romano with a tasty solo transition from chorus to 2nd verse. This album has great production and is an essential headphone listening experience. Great rock ’n’ roll recorded fantastically.
The bass leads the way as track number 8 Digital Dreams slams its way into my ears and has me tapping my feet to more bleak totalitarian themes of oppressive nightmares steeped in unfortunate reality. The main riff is like a gothic version of WEEZER’S Hash Pipe, and I, for one, am not complaining. More, please Gentiluomini. Especially the chromatic variation in the song’s outro. Fantastic.
Sleeping Tablets has grunge written all over as if the label bore a disclaimer ‘the only thing that makes this ‘gothic’ is the style of singing.’ As someone who struggles to get enough sleep, I appreciate any ode to insomnia and the struggle those who battle this affliction have in daylight hours.
‘All day long, eyes wired shut’
No more needs to be said, really. Whilst lyrically it is no Across the Night by SILVERCHAIR, the sentiment is the same and resonates. Lack of sleep is no way to function, and sleeping tablets are a mask, not a cure.
Penultimate track Body Shaming has that chromatic ascension in the chordal structure reminiscent of LED ZEPPELIN’s Kashmir and lyrically touches base on self-body shaming which can lead to disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
As someone who has recently gone through the former, this track resonates with me as I feel singer Fabio’s struggle. Very personal and heartfelt words that help drive the album home to its finale.
The album wraps up rather nicely with latest single Russian Roulette, a LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH cover, first released in 1982 and is an ode to the movie Deer Hunter. The lyrics originally penned by Tony James even lay credence to the fact that the movie is not factually based on true accounts of the Vietnam War (there are no historical accounts of Russian Roulette being used as a form of torture by the Viet Cong), so is a fitting way to wrap up the album’s conceptual aspect. Don’t believe everything you so on your screens, kids.
Musically, the cover is a note-for-note reconstruction of the original, just with modern recording / mastering techniques employed and featuring what is Artificial Heaven’s signature sound. Not bad, but not great.
Overall, I would have to give this album a solid 3.5 on 5.