posted on 7/2009 By:
I always wanted to make a metal band about Roman mythology and history. In all honestly, it was to be a parody band that would’ve aped the likes of Nile to no end (the band’s name would’ve been Tiber, by the way). I never got a chance to make said band; nobody was willing to wear sandals and robes on stage whilst playing militaristic, arpeggio-heavy death metal thematically focused on the rise and fall of one of the greatest civilizations of all time. I always knew Rome made for good death metal songwriting; Ex Deo just happens to have beat me to the punch and with better (i.e. any) results in debut Romulus, though I maintain that my original idea would’ve been sweet.
Knowing the lineup on the CD doesn’t speak volumes for this release, considering all four dudes from Kataklysm are present on the record, and frankly they haven’t had a decent album since Serenity in Fire (for others, as early as Sorcery). Rest assured Ex Deo ain’t Kataklysm, save Maurizio Iacono’s bellows and J-F Dagenais’ guitar tone, and the exceptional secondary personnel in Francois Mongrain (Martyr) and Jonathan Leduc from Blackguard help to reinforce that statement. Whereas Kataklysm relies on speed to make it through the day, Ex Deo plods and pummels with calculated oomph and crunch mixed with sharp keys and calming instrumental bridges. Altogether, the six-pack rifle through the chronicles of the Romans with ample bite and snarl, starting with “Romulus,” key in setting up the album’s recurring themes of war, betrayal, honor and death.
Maybe it’s just me, but you know how after you first saw the movie 300 and watched hulking super-masculine gorillas in thongs fight demons from the 9th circle of Hell, a handful of mammoths and a homoerotic pirate resplendent in his own treasures and sultry whore slaves, you immediately wanted to go out and fight stuff? Y’know, because a movie was the kick in the ass you needed to go start shit with a seven-foot-tall man with biceps the size of whiskey casks and an entourage of similarly built paragons of manliness? That’s kinda what Romulus does for me. It’s almost like unless you’re working out or in a pit actually witnessing the Ex Deo live experience, you’re prone to fits of rage caused by songs like “Cry Havoc” and “Cruor Nostri Abbas,” wasting no time to eviscerate the nearest passerby screaming “Veni Vidi Vici.” By the way, Behemoth’s Nergal makes an appearance, quoting said line (and pretty much only that line), as does Nile’s Karl Sanders and Keep of Kalessin’s Obsidian C. Karl Sanders’ appearance is largely unnoticeable, so the award for guest appearance honors goes to Obsidian, who essentially plays every solo he’s ever played in Keep. Can’t find a copy of Ex Deo to listen to his solo? Just go to YouTube and find the “Ascendant” video. You’ll get the idea.
To say Romulus is different is a gross overstatement. Stephen Hawking’s voice synthesizer has more variation than the 4/4 time signatures and predictable drum work. This is the kind of metal that’s been written for years and years, but is backed by an incredible production value of which J-F Dagenais has every right to be homoerotic proud. Sure, those guitars still ring that Kataklysm sound (especially that high-pitched buzz), but everything is damn near perfect as far as making everything sound as monstrous and monolithic as can be. That’s the magic of Ex Deo: you’ve heard this all before. It just never sounded this good before. If you’re willing to sacrifice originality for an album’s worth of stomping music, chances are you’ll dig this.
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