Unlike previous debut release Rebel of the Underground (2013), the album was not proceeded by any singles or videos. 20s A Difficult Age features production from main producer Sulyiman (who also makes a vocal appearance), ADOT THE GOD, San Francisco based producer Big Kevin Davis, Keith Dixon and veteran Virginia producer Lee Major and contains 15 songs each heavily conceptual, featuring sound effects via Skywalker Sound and sound designed by Orelias's creative studio, Weird Animal Studios.
Vocal features credited on the album include Sulyiman, Stephan Marcellus, OZZIE. and lyre player, Michael Levy.
The album spawned the creation of the brand series of the same name.
The writing and recording of 20s a Difficult Age began immediately after the release of the debut album Rebel of the Underground in 2013; The first song being written Aset originally titled Guadalupe, a one verse version was released in 2014 via SoundCloud. In the same year Marcus would begin working with Chicago based producer and native, Sulyiman.
On January 16, 2015 the first full single from 20s a Difficult Age was released titled ASET produced by West Chester, Pennsylvania music producer AdoTheGod. In the following two months Marcus Orelias revealed the album title would be called 20s a Difficult Age via Twitter.
On April 6, 2016 via his website the album's cover was revealed, the cover featured a fresco painting of the Capitoline Wolf with ancient and modern graffiti written around it, along with the design credits in Latin. Marcus stated he designed over 100 drafts for the cover in photoshop. Two time Grammy nominated music producer Lee Major was also announced as a main producer for 20s a Difficult Age. Heavily conceptual, many of the songs on the album feature "scenes" accompanied with heavy sound effects, many provided by way of Skywalker Sound in Marin, California. Voice talent was also cast to portray the characters of the peplum epic including Ray Hurd, Tina Marie Murray, Suehyla El-Attar and more. No full singles or videos were released prior to the album's release. On August 1st the track list was revealed via Twitter and snippets previewed August 20, 2017.
The album 20s A Difficult Age opens with "The Peplum Theme" blended with "The Danube Theme" to give the feel of opening credits. Harnuphis Bukouloi (voiced by Suehyla El-Attar) rides into a military camp searching for the Emperor, Marcus Antoninus.
Elysium: the album jumps to a destroyed camp, where crows peck on deceased bodies and Avidius Cassius (voiced by Sulyiman by way of additional vocals) is giving a speech to his legions. Back in Latium, Marcus Antoninus (Who's perspective is rapped by Marcus Orelias) speaking to the senate before departing off to war. Simultaneously Avidius concludes his speech by affirming his leadership will be different than the fallen and deceased Emperor, Marcus Antoninus (whom he presumes to be dead), his wife Volusia (Rachael Messer) draws a sword and tells the soldiers to prepare for war.
Blackouts: In Latium, Marcus speaks to his troops as they depart to the First Frontier Wars, the speech ends with a commander (Stephan Marcellus) delivering closing words.
Twenties: Jumping to the battlefield, Marcus and his troops arrive at their destination, the same camp Harnuphis arrived at in the beginning. Pertinax (Paul Bellantoni) enters Marcus's tent, he informs him of Harnuphis's presence. Marcus tells him they will meet with her after he, the general and commanders all celebrate their victories. Celebrating the get so drunk, Marcus beings to hallucinate, passing out - crashing over a table, unconscious he comes in contact with Ego the Demon, an entity that lives inside of him. Ego convinces him to do the wrong thing by remaining in a state of inebriation. Hearing the voice of Somnus guiding him, he quickly comes back to a conscious state.
Focused, he commands his fellow officers, commanders and generals to pause their vices and focus on military strategy. In between this, Harnuphis is presented. He, Harnuphis, Pertinax and Didius - discuss war strategies. Cut to the war. Surrounded, injured and outmanned - at the Empire's border Latium's forces are depleting and headed towards defeat. Didius commands Harnuphis to use her powers. She agrees - and the remaining soldiers do everything in their power to protect her while she summons the rain, pulling it off the surrounding enemies are washed away. Marcus on his horse declares "victory by rain is ours!". He commences to tell the legionaries they will be remembered and they have one more war to win back in Latium (referring to the hostile political climate).
Prelude: Martyr - Returning home with a homeless Harnuphis, Marcus Antoninus invites her to stay at his family villa. She accepts. Celebration of the battle commences as gladiator games at the colosseum are held. During the middle of the games, we meet Han a gladiator who is fighting for his life. Once the games are proceeded, the crowd rules on the gladiators fate based on thumbs up or thumbs concealed gesture. Ultimately for celebration he is condemned to death. Later tht evening the Antoninus family eats together.
The 20s A Difficult Age album introduced a few musical themes into the 20s universe, these themes include the "Peplum Theme" which opened the album, the "Light Motif" introduced in the album's initial trailer and others such as "Arrival in Latium", "The Mysterious Man Motif", "Epilogue" and "The Danube River" which followed the Peplum theme. All of the musical themes were composed by Sulyiman and co written by Marcus Orelias.
In 2018 videos for Aset and Blackouts were confirmed to be filmed via R.O.T.U. World's instagram. Aset was confirmed to be directed by director Luis Montoya and snippets shown in his 2018 music video reel and Blackouts, directed by Marcus Orelias.
On Saturday July 7, 2018 the official video for Aset was released and August 17, 2018 the visual for Blackouts was released.
Following, b-side single, Pompeiii also received visual treatment, the official video was released November 8, 2018. The visuals for Pompeiii showcased stock footage of the actual city of Pompeii through the lens of a super 8 camera.
The album's cover was designed over 100 times in photoshop from scratch by Marcus Orelias and features the She-Wolf, Rome's iconic representation of the origin story of the city on a blue decaying fresco wall in the Antoninus villa as explained in the song Twenties Pt. II:
"Let me tell you the story of Rome. I'll bring this up again when I'm home.
Matter of fact, Imma paint it on a fresco." - Marcus Orelias (as Marcus Antoninus)Packaged with the album were three concept art pieces. Originally drawn by Orelias, the three concept art pieces were touched up, polished and handled by senior film industry concept and visual effects
artist Chris Bonura. Also packaged with the album were character portrait concepts that were referenced by Marcus Orelias and professionally completed by visual artist Cristina Bencina, the characters highlighted were Harnuphis Bukouloi, Domitia Antoninus and Avidius Cassius. The concept art was released all together with the packaging of the album. Each piece of concept of art done by Chris Bonura focused on a central act in the fifteen track album, Mercy of the People, Intermission: The Arrival in Latium and the Antoninus Villa and gave visual aid to the scenes that occurred between songs and sometimes in the middle of the songs.
- The Danube River.....2:39
- Elysium (Feat. Sulyiman).....5:16
- Blackouts (Feat. Stephan Marcellus).....3:40
- Twenties (Feat. OZZIE.).....9:40
- Prelude: Martyr.....6:06
- Aset (Feat. Michael Levy).....3:41
- Intermission: The Arrival In Latium.....4:05
- Prelude: Capitol.....5:33
- Atrium (Feat. Stephan Marcellus).....4:41
- Prelude: Spring (Feat. Michael Levy).....4:35
- Fate (Feat. Stephan Marcellus).....4:00
- The Light and Epilogue.....4:41
Extended PlayOn September 26, 2018 an extended play of the album was released and featured the albums strongest "A-Side" songs and removed the scene elements. Much shorter in run time the EP only consisted of six songs total.
- Aset (Feat. Michael Levy)
- Blackouts (Feat. Stephan Marcellus)
- Atrium (Feat. Stephan Marcellus)
- Fate (Feat. Stephan Marcellus)
Voice Over Cast
In a last addition up and coming voice actors were hired to perform the "scenes" that trailed songs and often occurred in the middle of songs as well.
Raaginder (Uncredited).....as civilian 1
Ragini (Uncredited).....as civilian 2
Continuity and historical accuracy
Due to the ongoing changes throughout the five years, 20s a Difficult Age has subtle detailed nuances because people are listening and not visually seeing the album. Examples:
- In the opening monologue of Elysium, Avidius Cassius refers to the city of "Latium" - where the album is set - as "Rome" to indoctrinate modern geography so the location is easily known.
- During the dinner scene after Prelude: Martyr, Annia Antoninus uses the word "books". The word "books" was used to add weight to what was being said. Books weren't actually called books at the time. Instead they were called "codices" or modernly known as codexes which were pieces of papyrus or wax tablets bound together at the spine.
- There are three time jumps in the album. During and after the song Twenties leading into Prelude: Martyr and between Intermission: The Arrival at Latium and Prelude: Capitol.
- Annia Antoninus's name is correctly pronounced (Ah-Nee-Ah) but is also pronounced quickly as (An-Yah) by Tina Marie Murray, this was left in the album.
- Harnuphis is not heard from again until act III because she leaves the Antoninus villa a day or two after the dinner scene and goes to find Iya Agutan as shown in The Blue Madjai. She returns for Marcus's wedding then leaves indefinitely as heard in the scene after Atrium.