REVIEW: EX DEO – “The Immortal Wars”
There’s just something quite enthralling about Maurizio Iacono‘s Ex Deo. What was started as a side-project celebrating his Italian roots as well as the might and majesty of, arguably, the greatest civilization the world has known, has now become something where new releases are highly anticipated, even over his main band, Kataklysm. The outpouring of disappointment at the band’s indefinite hiatus in 2014 was somewhat palpable, yet mercifully for those craving for more of the regaling of Roman history can feast and exalt in the band’s return with ‘The Immortal Wars‘.
Centering on the Punic Wars that took place during the Roman Republic (the era that preceded the Empire which began in 27BC), the album chiefly explores the battles between two of this world’s greatest generals: Hannibal and Scipio Africanus. Given that these battles between Rome and Carthage took place between 264BC and 146BC, there’s a certain magnitude that Ex Deo need to live up to (if not in terms of might, then certainly in longevity). Thankfully, it’s apparent from the pomp “The Rise Of Hannibal” that Ex Deo are more than up to the task.
Veritable veterans now on album number three, ‘The Immortal Wars‘ continues the Ex Deo-mould that fans will be comfortably at-home with. Those coming in new to things and expecting a style of death metal akin to the likes of Nile and Melechesh will be a little disappointed – it’s far less technical than their aforementioned contemporaries, but it honestly does not need to be as shred-tacular. The chunky, chug-a-lug riffs that sit beneath bruising cries to “conquer Hispania!” from “Hispania (Siege Of Sagnutum)”, and mid-tempo stomp of “The Spoils Of War” are the sort of solid grounding that, when tastefully combined with grand brass and lush orchestration, provide a rich opulence and might to each track.
The combination of mighty riffs and grand symphony certainly adds a dramatic sheen to proceedings, but it’s always the general-like bellows that Iacono unleashes that conjures images of dusty battlefields, armour glinting in the sun and Legion XIII banners held aloft before ripping into battle. Try listening to cries like “I am the general you cannot kill” from “Ad Victoriam (The Battle Of Zama)” and suppressing the chills that ripple down your spine, and then race back up to command you to war. It’s almost historically-accurate (one could imagine such things being roared on the battlefield), whilst touches like the screeching violin on closer “The Roman” adds a warmth and authenticity to the album.
Ancient history and metal get on as well as a house on fire (or like Rome on fire… Historically-accurate joke; swing and miss…) So it stands to reason that Ex Deo have once again put out a solid slab of historically-sound death metal. Yes, it’s not terribly complex like their death metal brethren, nor is it reinventing the wheel (nor doing anything significantly different from ‘Romulus‘ or ‘I, Caligvla‘), but the palatial orchestrations and rousing, meaty riffage alongside epic story-telling in musica makes for quite an aural spectacle. A luxury best enjoyed after victory over an old foe in the throes of a luxurious feast. Ave Roma!