Pax Romana MMV
(Rhubarb, 2006)

Aussie trio Brother released their 10th CD, Pax Romana MMV, at the end of 2005. Their music cannot simply be labeled as Celtic rock, although if one is determined to find a pigeonhole, that might make the best fit. This CD blends Celtic rock with tribal drums and, on occasion, a Middle-Eastern flair. Out of a smorgasbord of instruments, the ones taking center stage making the most impact seem to be the drums, bagpipes and didgeridoo.

This 10th release for the indie band only contains eight tracks and lasts just over half an hour. But just so you don't feel ripped off, there is a 10-minute "making of" video added to the CD as well. This is an interesting peek in to the band beyond just hearing the songs. A lot of the footage is very raw and of very low quality. (Fans of U.S. President George W. Bush are advised not to pay close attention to t-shirts seen in the video.)

While I enjoy all eight tracks, my favorites tend to be the more instrumental ones. Take "Still Wind," for instance. It starts out with the didgeridoo and a simple drum beat. Before long, the dulcimer joins in along with a couple more instruments. The melody does invoke a sort of stillness. For me, the sound makes me think more of the coming dawn than a still wind. I think the track is entirely too short. The reverie of the meditation is broken by the next track.

"Elbautaka" is the second track that focuses on the instruments. The tribal drumming starts you swaying. The hypnotic vocals (without words) along with the didgeridoo add tremendously to the piece. There are some lyrics repeated on occasion, but they are very basic ("Gotta live my life" and "Freedom for all").

In defense of the other six tracks with more traditional lyrics, I simply prefer the instruments to the vocals. When I listen to the tracks with lyrics, I find myself focusing more on the instruments. The opening track, "Photograph," makes the point that the singer is an ordinary person, not a photograph. What consistently draws me in, however, is the sound of the bagpipes played to a rock beat.

Brother consists of Hamish, Angus and Dalbo. Hamish performs on didgeridoo, guitars, pipes, pennywhistle, seed pods and melodica. Angus plays guitars, bass, pipes and didgeridoo. Dalbo handles mongrel drums, djembe and dumbek. All three contribute vocals and percussion. On Pax Romana MMV, there are too many guest musicians to mention, but this extensive list helps explain the layering in the music that couldn't be achieved by three musicians on their own (without electronic help, perhaps).

Pax Romana MMV is a pretty decent CD. While it is hard to categorize the music as it is quite varied, it is all good. It is my opinion that the blending of instruments from around the world, moreso than the lyrics, makes this CD worthy of purchase. While Pax Romana MMV is not the best CD to cross my path in 2006, it certainly gets a lot of airplay in all of my CD players.

by Wil Owen
30 December 2006

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