After KATAKLYSM’s ninth album, “Prevail” (2008), vocalist Maurizio Iacono found the time to begin an own project called EX DEO. With this he would focus, lyrically, on Roman history, on its emperors, the important figures and happenings of that time. There are countless Viking Metal bands out there, and Viking refers to the lyrics, since the music can be Power Metal, Death Metal, Folk-influenced Metal, etc… So it’s nice to have a focus on a different era of humanity.
EX DEO was created in 2008, released its debut album “Romulus” in 2009 via Nuclear Blast. For that album, not only did the entire KATAKLYSM line-up help with the recordings, but also Jonathan Lefrancois-Leduc (keyboards, ex-BLACKGUARD), Osidian C. (guitar, KEEP OF KALESSIN), Karl Sanders (guitar, NILE) and Nergal (vocals, BEHEMOTH). This led to a very decent end result. For the follow-up, “Caligvla” (out since the end of August 2012), Dano Apekian (ASHES OF EDEN) handled the bass, Jonathan Lefrancois-Leduc again the keyboards, and extra vocal input was delivered by Mariangela Demurtas (TRISTANIA), Stefan Fiori (GRAVEWORM), Spiros Antoniou aka Seth Siro Anton (SEPTICFLESH) and Francesco Artusato (ALL SHALL PERISH). The rest of the line-up is part of KATAKLYSM.
The album kicks off with “I, Caligvla”. The intro is one of orchestration, including brass elements, as if to indicate the arrival of the emperor. This creates a nice, epic imagery, as if you’re watching a film, but there’s no video. The dark, gloomy Blackened Metal comes in soon enough with Maurizio grunting in his typical manner. The music is firm, though dragging and has, typical also for KATAKLYSM, enough groove. There’s a nice division here: orchestration for melody, atmosphere and bombast, while the Metal delivers the power. Contrary to KATAKLYSM, this album has guitar solos. A very good song to begin with.
“The Tiberius Cliff (Exile To Capri)” is next and from the start the music indicates there’s danger ahead. Musically you get pounding, ferocious Groove Metal with massive orchestral arrangements. A very orgasmic combination! Again, add video or theater play and the picture will be complete. This is not a happy song, not musically, not lyrically. It’s rather dramatic and the music is well done to express that. The orchestrations are vital, as the Metal alone isn’t enough to carry the song. It would feel naked, so to speak, less complete. “Per Oculos Aquila” (with guest vocals by Stefan Fiori from GRAVEWORM) has the orchestrations leading, while the Metal waits to advance, which it does in a typical 4/4 pattern, dragging onwards. However, the whole sounds bombastic! And catchy and very accessible, too. But drama is not that far off, as mainly the chorus indicates with ferocious growls and sad music. The guitar solo is set halfway, at which point it’s all about Metal. And that’s nice, for a change.
“Divide Et Impera” brings more power to the tracklist, while the bombast remains in the back. The Metal pounds onwards, sounds ferocious, but overall there is a nice balance between melody and heaviness. This song has expresses power, ambition and pursuing that goal. Female guest vocals are delivered by Mariangela Demurtas (TRISTANIA), who does a tremendous job here. The guitar solo wasn’t forgotten and splits the song in two. All ends in a classic manner, though I can’t pinpoint the instrument (bouzouki?). Nevertheless, another very good song on the list. “Pollice Verso (Damnatio Ad Bestia)” begins with a metallic, building intro (including toms). The choir adds to the atmosphere, the grandeur. And to the song takes off with very nice atmospheric touches and orchestrations. From sadness to powerful darkness, where the orchestrations are needed, yet play a less prominent role. Another song that doesn’t make anyone happy. Guest growls were delivered by Seth Siro Anton (SEPTICFLESH), while Francesco Artusato (ALL SHALL PERISH) added guitar input.
Another soundtrack-like intro can be found in “Burned To Serve As Nocturnal Light”, also adding fires and screams. The Blackened Metal returns, after which bombast and power are unleashed. This works well with a slow chorus (dramatic and gloomy). The choir is present, too, followed by a fast, metallic outbreak of firm, pounding power and, of course, a guitar solo. EX DEO is still delivering the goods, more than before. Next is “Teutoburg (Ambush Of Varus)” , a more accessible song. It sounds similar, at least the melody, to “Pollice Verso (Damnatio Ad Bestia)”. Metal dominates in the pounding verse and that’s a lust for the ear! The tempo increases in the melodic chorus. Regarding the ambush, Maurizio clearly states it like that: “Aaaambuuuuush! Aaaambuuuush!… Hold the line! Hold it!” Oh yes, it’s war. And so the orchestrated bombast comes in with of course sounds of battle. After that it’s back to business as usual.
“Along The Appian Way” is another aggressive, midtempo and bombastic track. While it sounds dark and demonic, it’s got some nice melodic touches as well. Growls and shrieks occupy the vocal department. Melody is also applied to the bridge, while bombast resides in the chorus. The song is dominated by the guitar(s) and drums, while the orchestrations linger in the back. After the solo, the story recommences. There are film dialogues too, as another is example is shown in “Once Were Romans”. Men are being whipped here. The song itself consists of midtempo, rolling Groove Metal with the required bombast. A pounding, symphonic bridge leads to a sad piece, while the chorus appears to be more vicious and powerful, especially halfway. Diversity is key in this song, however. Last but not least there’s the finstrumental “Evocatio: The Temple Of Castor & Pollux”, consisting of orchestrations, a choir and sounds of the masses.
“Romulus” was a decent debut album for this new Roman-inspired project. It was good to see someone bringing Roman history to the table. This is, personally speaking, extra attractive after having visited Rome last year and having read Tom Holland’s “Rubicon”. Anyone interested in Roman history, I can recommend at least one website: UNRV.com. With “Caligvla” Maurizio and co. show they aren’t done yet and put a lot of effort into making this a more than worthy follow-up release. The songs are all well composed, sound very good and lively. It just needs video to make it complete. Other than that, this is one of the best releases of 2012, no question about that.
- I, Caligvla
- The Tiberius Cliff (Exile To Capri)
- Per Oculos Aquila
- Divide Et Impera
- Pollice Verso (Damnatio Ad Bestia)
- Burned To Serve As Nocturnal Light
- Teutoburg (Ambush Of Varus)
- Along The Appian Way
- Once Were Romans
- Evocatio: The Temple Of Castor & Pollux
Maurizio Iacono – vocals
Stéphane Barbe – guitar
Jean-François Dagenais – guitar
Jonathan Lefrancois-Leduc – keyboards
Dano Apekian – bass
Max Duhamel – drums