|Pax Romana - 'Let All Men Know - This Is Sacred Ground' (Presence Records)|
|Written by Michael Anthony|
|Wednesday, 07 May 2014 03:40|
They must be putting something in the water in Finland. Something good. Not content with gifting the world the fabulous Von Hertzen Brothers, the Finns have also incubated and unleashed again the re-energised, re-vitalised joy that is Pax Romana.
Initially forming in their mid-teens in 1970, it didn’t really happen for them back then. But with friendships, values and musical influences intact, Pax Romana seem to be experiencing a very creative and productive second coming.
In fact, ‘Let All Men Know – This Is Sacred Ground’ is their third album, following ‘Trace of Light’ (2005) and ‘And the Dance Begins Again’ (2009). The musical influences span progressive rock and ‘ambient’ folk, though the songs themselves are, for the most part, crisp and accessible, and you might even hear a touch of Leonard Cohen, Mark Knopfler and Chris Rea in there.
The album title comes from a war memorial in Melbourne which honours lost life and nature destroyed. The title track, the album’s only instrumental, is sufficiently mournful and reflective to carry off the intended tribute with appropriate sensitivity and gravitas.
Overall the album’s vibe is warm and inviting, and there is much to enjoy. Opener ‘Screaming Heads (Vox Humana)’ eases its way in and builds nicely. (Think Jethro Tull circa ‘Crest of a Knave’.) ‘Batman’ is gentle and laid back. ‘Soul Basement’ is more up-tempo, a quirky little number with an almost dance-like beat and a catchy chorus. ‘God’s Fruit’ has an extended ambient intro, a cool groove and some superb lead guitar, a heavily accented vocal contributing to its charm. ‘Blind Eye’ is the album’s longest track, allowing the band to stretch out just a little, with impressive effect. My personal favourite, though, is the beautiful and folky ‘Danish Lullaby’, which, like many of the tracks here, is enhanced by the sax playing of Kalle Fält, now a full member of the band having guested on the first two albums.
The name ‘Pax Romana’ is intended to reflect the “traditional humanist” values of the band – a commitment to social justice, equal rights and peace. In content and mood the songs reflect this, dealing with common aspects of life, love and hope. It’s uplifting and laudable stuff. ‘Let All Men Know ...’ is a classy, easy-listening delight – an interesting, assured and thoroughly pleasing offering from these self-proclaimed “Finnish Peace Boys”. “Don’t drink the water,” we are sometimes told. If you’re in Finland, ignore that advice – drink lots of it!