Review: Max Romeo – Horror Zone

By Liam Monaghan

I was weary when I got the new Max Romeo album through, I hadn’t heard much about it from heads in the scene, I also hadn’t heard much about it via the normal outlets that support reggae on radio/press so at the age of 71, I was cautious. I knew his voice would be intact and as great as always as recently I acquired a dub plate, which is just insane. I was intrigued to see if his sound had moved along with the times to compete with the Chronixx & Protoje’s of the scene but gladly, no, he hasn’t. This album addresses many issues; I’ve seen this album described as Gloomy. Now there is a certain air about this album which does make you think about the issues Max addresses however, if its making you do that.. Then its great!

Not many albums and promos I go through make me want to listen to the whole record and come away thinking that was something different. Daniel Boyle (Rolling Lion Studio) on production had identified in his Kickstarter project, that the production on this album needed to be authentic of the Black Ark studios and capture that sound, and he did. Lee Scratch Perry himself was involved with the project and you can really tell with the sound and the way the track feels. To top it all off, Tony Wright was brought in to paint the cover artwork, like he did with e.g Max Romeo’s War inna Babylon Album.

What If
Roots Roots Roots. Really like this record, wicked abrupt flashes of horns that set the pace for the track. Max’s voice is still incredibly strong and he hasn’t lost that class and uniqueness. I really like how Max has adapted his style in this track, he almost talks but sings those key words which works well. I also like the drum pattern in this track with the weight and splashes of echo. A really good way to start the album.

Fed Up
A huge tune. I think this record will appeal to a lot of people as they can relate to this track. Simply “fed up, cant take no more” whether its work, politics or personal relationships, this song speaks to all. Stripped back track with nice harmonies from some backing vocalists and some keys with wandering horn solos throughout. Max’s voice is at a point where in this track it adds to the message, the raw and worn sound really makes this track unique.

What Is Life
I didn’t know if Max had covered Black Uhuru… he hasn’t but either way. A nice chilled song, not as airy and dark as the previous two. “What is life without Love, it doesn’t mean a thing” is the main message. Max asks the questions of Life “when you have to see your children hungry, your house is always empty, Bills are plenty” another really nice riddim and a strong powerful record from Max.

Scammer Jammers
“We have a world full of scammers” is the message here. Whether its con artists in the streets, a distant cousin you never knew has just left you millions of dollars from the other side of the world but they just need your bank details to send the info or even fake charities or splicing dubs. This is the first record ive heard recently addressing scammers and it’s a good one too.

The Sound Of War
Hot topic in recent times, war. It was predictable that Max would address war and with so much happening all over the world at the moment it’s only right to address it. A nice built riddim, not much going on, but this is to specifically give focus to Max’s words and messages. A nice track overall, lyrically focused.

Horror Zone
Album Titled track now! Upbeat from the previous couple, which were serious topics with serious messages. Some great messages in this track, which touch upon sharing the world and also destroying humanity. Cloak and dagger skull and bones echo throughout the track, the dub style tones splash occasionally and this track is defiantly a track for performing live.

Another issue that Max has decided to address which others hasn’t. Smoking! “What’s the use of a cigarette” “instead of smoking a cigarette try making love!” probably my favourite track on the album. There’s a level of humor to me however the points Max make are very very serious. We all know someone who smokes and who has been affected by the causes of smoking. Listen to the lyrics.

Give Thanks To Jehovia
A nice track here and a good way to finish the album. An upbeat riddim with some dirty horns with deep roots guitar strumming which creates that air which we felt earlier on in the album. The message is pretty clear in this record, its very much a ode to Jehovia

A great album! I was scared incase it didn’t live up to what I thought it was going to be! However. I really enjoyed listening to it. Stand out track is Cigarette, it really touched me and I think it will touch you. Ive seen recent performances of Max and he still has it! Fair play to him for creating that authentic sound and not trying to get into the new computerised Reggae sound.

Max Romeo
Horror Zone
Rolling Lion Studio
Release date: July 22, 2016