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INTERVIEW: Maurizio Iacono – Ex Deo

It’s not uncommon for metal to address topics of history for both their musical and lyrical output. Whether it is focused on the destruction seen in the World Wars to Medieval warfare, metal and history go hand in hand. EX DEO‘s focus on the Roman Empire has brought the band fruitful conquests for nine years now and on 2017 sees the arrival of album number three, The Immortal Wars. Coming after the band’s resurgence from hiatus, the new offering comes as a breath of fresh air to extreme music. We caught up with frontman Maurizio Iacono to lift the lid on the new record, its themes and concepts, alongside discussing working with Clemens Wijers (CARACH ANGREN) and whether the band will ever tour again.

Your new album, The Immortal Wars, is set for release at the end of this month. What can fans expect from the upcoming album?

Maurizio: Well it is a conceptual record, the other ones were more individual songs that represented different times of the Roman Empire and all that. But this one, this one is more based on the Punic Wars, it’s really a whole concept, and it is the first time we have done that so it is a different approach. Also, we have a different member of the band on this record where it is the keyboardist of CARACH ANGREN, Clemens Wijers, so he brought a completely new dimension to the band’s sound as well and we worked very close together on how the background is going to sound, all the orchestra and all that, so that was a very cool experience. It’s a mature record and I think it is a going in a different direction, it’s a very dramatic album and it’s got a lot of power in it, I am very pleased with the result.

You mentioned that the record is focused on the three Punic Wars. Why did you decide to focus on that area of Roman history?

Maurizio: Well you know it was something that redesigned the entirety of warfare, it was a time where the strategies used in that war between Hannibal and Scipio switched and changed the way people think about war. You’re talking about a guy who decided he was going to walk into the biggest republic in the world and just walk right through it with elephants. Going over the Alps takes some guts and you have to be a little crazy to do that and I think when you really think about that part, in all that craziness there has to be some genius too. He was a very very good tactician and I think there is nothing better than that for a metal album, I think the concept fitted perfectly and it also has a big parallel on things happening today. That is why it is called The Immortal Wars, it just seems like something that keeps coming back, it’s either land or domination of power, like it was back in the days of the Roman Empire. Or it is because of religion now, but it is still two worlds that seem to be connecting, I think in the end it is all monetary and I think it all comes down to the same idea. It’s crazy how the world changes but certain things don’t.

You just mentioned about the album title and it is quite fitting given that we still see similar conflicts in the world today. So when you come up with the concepts on Ancient Rome do you also look to current events as well?

Maurizio: I go with what interests me the most and when I started this band with Romulus I had to introduce it and some people aren’t familiar with Roman history. It gets taught a lot in Europe but it is not something that everybody sees all over the world or knows about. So I wanted an easier way, so Romulus and Julius Caesar and the main characters that everybody knows but then I started getting more into the people I thought were interesting, like Caligula, but now I’m getting more deep into the philosophical aspect of war strategy and what got me into it, so I thought the Punic Wars was a very different time in history and that changed the world as we see it now. If Hannibal won the war and marched into Rome, it would be a completely different world we live in today, so it is crazy how it is affected us.

This new album comes five years after Caligula, how has the band progressed in that time?

Maurizio: Because we have KATAKLYSM which is the main band for us and it’s our baby and it’s our mood for so long, it takes a lot of time and a lot of space. So EX DEO is a project for us which we love and it’s got that thing I do out of art and it’s part of my heritage which I like to bring out. But it is not something at this point in our careers that we would actually bring out and tour and try to develop like KATAKLYSM. It’s two different worlds and EX DEO is meant to be a cool project for fans and we do it because there is still demand for it. We decided to take a break and refocus on it when we had time to do that between KATAKLYSM records. I’m not sure if we’re going to tour for it at all, we’ve got a crazy video that we filmed that’s coming out this month and that’s going to be really sick. We want to bring that visual aspect of Rome but to tour for it, we’re not sure if that is going to come into the works just because of time.

You mentioned earlier that you worked with Clemens of CARACH ANGREN on the orchestral elements of the band’s sound. What impact did he bring to the overall sound of EX DEO?

Maurizio: He definitely brought a new wind to the band, a new touch which I thought wasn’t there before. Jonathan, who did the first two records, did a phenomenal job and we take nothing away from him but because of this five year break we wanted to come back with a different approach and me and Clemens are good friends. I manage his band CARACH ANGREN and I have the direct contact with him and I know his work. I thought he would be a great fit for EX DEO and as soon as we connected I told him my ideas and what I wanted and he came with a different approach which I thought was really cool, it is very dramatic. Some of the elements in the instruments he used are very ancient which made it really cool, a very warm sound so we are very pleased.

Within this five year wait between Caligula and The Immortal Wars, there was the hiatus that took place from 2014 to 2015. At the time, when that was announced, you said the third album was unlikely to be done, so what triggered you to reignite EX DEO?

Maurizio: It’s funny to say but I had a vacation in Italy with my wife. I was in Italy in 2015 and I visited a lot of ancient monuments and I bumped into a few fans who said “you better bring back EX DEO” and I was feeling it in the moment and that is when it all started for me again. The hiatus remains for touring, that’s not changed, we just decided to do a record and that’s where the hiatus was more meant to be. The album was just a uncertain thing if we would do it or not but we decided to do it and it came out great and we are very happy with it. I don’t close the door on anything, I just let the people decide.

The overall style of the band, it’s not something that is usually seen within contemporary death metal, to have such a epic wall of sound. Do you feel by having that and incorporating the lyrical topics of Ancient Rome as well, that you stand apart from other bands in death metal?

Maurizio: It’s a really cool project to do because nobody has done it. We have so much to work with Rome it gives us this extra wall of opportunities and we decided to work with Jens Bogren in Sweden to mix the album and work with us on the record and he brought that big beefy sound and worked the orchestra in perfectly. He’s a phenomenal engineer and that really helped us a lot to bring the message out. It’s such a big project and there are so many possibilities and also on the lyrical end there are so many topics to discuss, it’s such a good project and frankly, all these Viking bands are cool but there are too many! I didn’t connect with the Viking stuff, it’s not me, this is something that has history everywhere, especially in Europe, it touches a lot of nations and I think everybody can relate with it.

And really, my last question for you, you’ve mentioned on the touring end there are no plans in the works, once the album is out what is next for EX DEO?

Maurizio: We’re going to release a video soon for the song The Roman, it’s the last track on the record. The video is going to be really crazy and it’s over the top and that was the idea of this, to first release the album and then release this big visual. You have to release a visual with Rome, you can imagine it, which is cool, but this visual really brings it to life and we feel that we wanted to invest in that than rather go out on tour. But the people who have seen EX DEO live have loved it and the band is able to really reproduce the Roman aspect live, but it is just such a hard project to tour for, we just don’t know, it depends on the fans. We would love to do Bloodstock again, that was great last time we played it, we would love to do something like that. We’d keep it to a few shows but cool shows, I’d like to do that. If it comes and it makes sense, if we have the time, it’s a cool band that wants to bring us our or whatever, we’ll think about. For now, we just want to release the album and let the music do the talking.

Well thank you so much for talking to me and best of luck for the release of your new album.

Maurizio: Thank you so much.

The Immortal Wars is set for release on February 24th via Napalm Records.

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