For heavy metal, it’s not uncommon to focus it’s subject matter on that from a historical stand point. Be it on the Viking pillages, Religious conflicts or the global destruction of the World Wars, the historical footprints of mankind makes for great subject matter for heavy metal. For KATAKLYSM side-project EX DEO, the focus has always been on the ancient Roman Empire and now, after a five year wait, the band are back with album number three, The Immortal Wars; a concept record based on the blood-soaked and pivotal trilogy of The Punic Wars. But, does this new offering from EX DEO still carry the same grit and strength to represent the might of Rome?
Through a slick combination of dual guitarists Jean-Francois Dagenais and Stéphane Barbe and backed with subtle orchestral elements, opening track The Rise of Hannibal sets the stage in grand fashion. The pacing ebbs and flows in grand representation of battle through sweeping riffs, crashing crescendos whilst frontman Maurizio Iacono‘s vocal deliveries reign above. It’s emphatic and epic and starts The Immortal Wars off on a strong note.
From there, the record only continues to build momentum and continues to serve as a strong audio representation to the might of Ancient Rome. Hispania (Siege of Saguntum) boasts sweeping orchestral elements that compliment the crushing guitar tones whilst Crossing of the Alps packs enough hooks through the lead guitar lines from Dagenais, including a truly mesmerising solo, that counters the marching rhythm from Oli Beaudoin‘s drumming and Dano Apekian‘s bass lines. Musically, the sound of The Immortal Wars aligns itself to death metal, there’s enough ferocity in the double bass drumming and down-tuned riffs to pack a wallop, but in truth, The Immortal Wars is a much more expansive affair.
Melody isn’t the word most commonly associated with death metal but EX DEO utilise it in a subtle but extremely satisfying faction. Largely, this is down to the cornerstone of the band’s expansive soundscape through the orchestral elements of Clemens Wijers (CARACH ANGREN). The orchestral elements utilised by Wijers aren’t pushed to the forefront like on the band’s previous effort, Caligvla, but rather used in backing to enhance the pummelling riffs and Maurizio Iacono‘s vocal efforts. The result can be at times be truly hair-raising, from the chilling tones of Cato Major: Carthogo delenda est!‘s militaristic flow to the complete bombastic approach to interlude track Suavetaurilia (Intermezzo), the effect of this aspect of EX DEO‘s sound is truly special and one that really enhances the sound to an epic scale.
That being said though, the band still deliver on all fronts making The Immortal Wars a complete package. The orchestral elements enhance Oli Beaudoin‘s imperialistic drumwork and Dano Apekian‘s bass tones, the guitar play from Jean-Francois Dagenais and Stéphane Barbe is meaty, if a little flat and uninspiring at times, and frontman Maurizio Iacono does a formidable job of replicating a Roman general through his powerful vocal deliveries. It results in an audio representation of Ancient Rome that is massive in scale, with closing epic The Roman displaying EX DEO‘s approach on a gargantuan level.
The Immortal Wars is a vast and expansive record, one that takes the subject matter and pushes it to the forefront. This is a record that is bold and grand in its sonic assault of showcasing the brutality and scale of Ancient Rome to great effect. Whilst there are times where the record falters and the immersion is shattered, these moments are few and far between. But, for the most part EX DEO deliver the final blow. This is a record that is bombastic and expansive, one that flies the flag of Rome high into the sky.
The Immortal Wars is set for release on February 24th via Napalm Records.
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