Roots reggae veteran Max Romeo’s children have stepped into the spotlight. A few years ago his son dropped the scorching Grow My Dread and about a month ago his daughter Xana Romeo put out her debut album Wake Up.
It has been a busy year for the Romeo’s. First Max Romeo’s own full-length Horror Zone and then Xana Romeo’s debut. Two solid sets, but with disparate sounds.
Horror Zone was a throwback to the 70s and certainly a very vintage sounding effort, whereas Wake Up is contemporary with a more modern soundscape.
Wake Up collects eleven cuts of which five are dub versions. The audio landscape is thick and ethereal with both brass and melodica. Xana Romeo sings with great confidence and heavy patois and her musical journey will be a delight to follow.
To follow up best-selling and epochal albums is a difficult task for an artist. And to try it after more than 40 years is probably impossible. But this is what seasoned Jamaican reggae singer Max Romeo and British producer and mixing engineer Daniel Boyle aim at with Horror Zone, a 16 track showcase album described as the follow-up to Max Romeo’s ultra-classic album War ina Babylon from 1976.
Max Romeo has of course recorded several albums after War ina Babylon, but none with the same dark and ambient atmosphere that Lee Perry created for that set. And it’s that swirling and swampy sound that Daniel Boyle and Max Romeo have wanted to re-create on Horror Zone.
Daniel Boyle succeeded a similar mission impossible with Lee Perry’s acclaimed and Grammy nominated Back on the Controls. And I dare to say that Horror Zone is another stellar set with its heavy grooves and deep vibes.
Horror Zone is heavyweight and organic roots reggae with political and social commentaries. Max Romeo delivers relevant and insightful lyrics over raw and live-recorded rhythms played by a number of the musicians that were involved in recording War ina Babylon, including Vin Gordon on trombone, Robbie Lyn on keyboard and Glen DaCosta on saxophone. Lee Perry himself added percussion and backing vocals as well as effects for the dub versions.
To complete the concept Daniel Boyle even connected with designer Tony Wright to do the cover art. Tony Wright did the artwork on War ina Babylon along with several classic sleeves from the 70s, including Lee Perry’s Super Ape, Junior Murvin’s Police & Thieves and Ijahman Levi’s Haile I Hymn.
With Horror Zone Max Romeo and Daniel Boyle have managed to create a strong album that pays respect to the original War ina Babylon, but without being too nostalgic.