By: Cassi Harris

Building Rome is an unsigned band out of St. Louis, Missouri who have crafted an LP titled Nightmare, full of contrast and angst. Building Rome consists of Jon Heisserer, lead vocals and guitar, Brandon Armour on guitar, Tom Butler on bass, and Brian Porter on drums.

Nightmare is a concept album, loosely based off the movie Jacob’s Ladder, that follows a man’s struggle through internal and external conflict, feeling trapped and using drugs to self-medicate and dealing with addiction. The story also incorporates a twisted love story into the anxiety, depression and drugs. Despite the concept being a little extreme, Nightmare still manages to be relatable and walks the fine line between being completely theatrical and being unrecognizable as a concept album.

Building Rome’s ability to have constant variety while sticking to the concept is phenomenal. Their wide range of musical interest is evident on the album with “What Are We Fighting For?” having an obvious Green Day influence while “Bring Me Home” is very Death Cab For Cutie-esque and there is a hint of The Beach Boys in “Orange Case.” The last thing Nightmare could be considered is monotonous. Despite the diversity of the tracks, Building Rome does not lose the reoccurring themes of internal struggle, addiction, self-destruction and love keeping the concept strong. Violins are also incorporated throughout the entire album giving it extra texture and helping the concept remain fluid despite varying song structures.

Nightmare starts off strong with “What Are We Fighting For?” including killer guitars, group vocals and a percussion driven bridge and follows with the title track “Nightmare” including raging guitars starkly contrasted with a stripped down pre-chorus.

“Dr. Doctor” is one of the strongest tracks on the album with a catchy chorus and rad guitar solo. It makes many references to the title track and fits with the theme of medicating oneself to deal with life. Drugs and self destruction are carried through into “Take Cover (Burn)” and “Haunting Me.”

The character becomes apologetic during “Last Time Again,” “Orange Case,” and “Tired of Waking Up” which are more poppy and slow-paced. The lyrics follow the cycle of addiction and the impact on those close to the character.

“Bring Me Home” is my personal favorite on the album. Heissereer’s vocals are layered with female vocals which is haunting and beautiful. The lyrics are also lasting, especially the chorus. “I worry about everything every time I close my eyes, so before I fall asleep, let’s keep the TV on tonight, ’cause you’re afraid of the dark, and I could use the light.” This track incorporates the character’s love while still dealing with his own internal struggles.

The album concludes with “If This is Where It Ends,” a very short track leaving the listener with a final question of “If this is where it ends… where do we begin?”

If the slightly twisted and theatrical entice you, Nightmare is up for free download by checking Building Rome’s Myspace blogs and signing up for their mailing list. Take advantage of legal free downloading and support this ambitious release.

Rating: 9/10

Release Date: September 18th, 2009

Recommended Tracks: “What Are We Fighting For?” “Dr. Doctor” “Bring Me Home”

For Fans Of: Ludo, Bayside, Green Day