Sound: Gimmick bands nowadays are very hit and miss. Making every single song have a similar underlying theme(e.g, pirates, Vikings) must be very constricting, as each song would have to be noticeably different whilst, at the same time, having a restriction on just how different from the others it can be. A good example of a band who does this without any problems is Amon Amarth. They have consistantley brought out Viking-themed music and managed to keep it from going stale, becoming one of the biggest Death Metal bands in the process. Now, enter Ex Deo, a Roman-themed Death Metal band from Montreal in Canada. Fronted by Kataklysm's Maurizio Iacono, the band steps into a terrtory previously unwalked. Do they pull it off? I'll walk you through the album:
01. Romulus: the title trackis all about the two twins who founded Rome, Romulus and Remus, and Romulus' taking of power. This song is what the band are all about. It's refreshing that they don't rely on speed to make a good song. There's a good sense of melody and story-telling involved. You also realise that they have quite a unique sound. Great way to open the album.
02. Storm The Gates of Alesia: Alesia was the capital of the Mandubbi tribe in Gaul before Julius Caesar captured it in his conquest of the country. In the battle, Caesar killed his Gaulish adversary, Vercingetorix and crushed the threat the Gauls offered to Italy. This song has bags of epicness. It gets your heart racing and raises your spirits. My favourite part comes at the 5:30 mark when Nergal comes in screaming 'Veni, Vidi, Vici'. Love it.
03. Cry Havoc: the longest song on the album 7:01, there's an almost ballad feel to it. Best listened in the rain, I think. Around 3 minutes, it gets faster but still has these undertones of sadness in. If you hear it, you might know what I mean or maybe it's just me.
04. In Her Dark Embrace: choirs are used to great effect on this album. It really gives it a Roman feeling. This song is great, especially the parts where it speeds up just before the chorus.
05. Invictus: this song has a name that is Latin for 'unconquerable' or 'undefeated'. This is quite apt for a song about Julius Caesar. Very catchy chorus and one of the album's best songs.
06. The Final War (Battle of Actium): this song is about the final and decisive battle of the Final War of the Roman Republic: Actium. The battle pitched Octavian (Caesar's great-nephew and adopted son) against Mark Antony (Caesar's best friend and one of his greatest generals) and Cleopatra (Queen of Egypt and Caesar's lover). Octavian won and became Rome's first Emporer. Featuring Karl Sanders of Nile, This is a great listen ifnot the best on the album.
07. Legio XIII: following the story of one of Caesar's key units throughout his military career, the Thirteenth Legion, this song won't dissappoint. By now, you should have realised that this album has has plenty of quality and is well worth a listen.
08. Blood, Courage and The Gods That Walk The Earth: personally, my least favourite track. That being said, it isn't a bad song, especially when it gets going around the 3:19 mark.
09. Cruor Nostri Abbas: latin for 'Bloodshed Our Father' (or something similar) this another good song with another catchy chorus.
10. Surrender The Sun: the penultimate track gets my seal of approval. Very epic in it's sound, it is well worth a listen.
11. The Pantheon (Jupiter's Reign): very ancient sound to the last track, the Pantheon being the best preserved building in modern-day Rome having been built by Hadrian in AD 126 and Jupiter being the Roman God of war, there's no actual input from the band except for a bit of growling towards the end. An interesting conclusion to an interesting album.
As you can tell, this is a great album with no songs on that I don't like. Good effort. // 8
Lyrics and Singing: Most people probably know Maurizio Iacono better from his work in Kataklysm. This band is rather different from Kataklysm, something you realise straight away. Of course, the vocals are similar but I believe the arrangements in 'Romulus' make him sound more powerful. In terms of lyrics, there is obviously a lot of Roman themes. There's also quite a bit of latin. I like well researched lyrics and their songs of major Roman battles and figures do justice to them. You can tell they've spent time researching (or perhaps they're just knowledgeable) and the end product is very satisfying. // 8
Impression: This album is a great debut. I don't think that, unless you absolutely detest Ex Deo, you can disagree. It's obvious plenty of time and effort has gone into making this a real Roman adventure and I think they've pulled it off. Some gimmick bands don't do justice to the theme on which they've chosen to base themselves. Happily, Ex Deo don't fall into that trap. If it'snot for you, perhaps you should try Kataklysm. I, on the other hand, will sit here waiting contentedly for their next release. // 9