Ranging from dragons to pirates, and vikings to Egyptians, metal’s lyrical themes are getting ever more expansive. With their second album, “Caligvla”, Ex Deo continues to explore the largely untapped market of Roman history. It might be because this imagery is relatively new territory for metal, but this band is a refreshing change of pace from the current death metal scene. Likewise, their music is also quite different form the convoluted brutal and technical styles that plague metal. Even though the band is considered to be symphonic death metal, they don’t sound anything like Fleshgod Apocalypse. Instead, the keyboards are used in a less busy manner, preferring to accentuate the other instruments rather than overlap them. The keys are often the main melody, with slower tremolo-picked sections underneath, but this stomping, epic approach greatly compliments the lyrics. The drums enhance this sound by incorporating plenty of slow double bass sections. Surprisingly, there isn’t a single blast beat on this album.
After some triumphant fanfare, “I Caligvla” begins the album. Though this song is somewhat catchy, this is one album that doesn’t quite work on a song-by-song basis. None of the tracks are bad, but the experience is much better when listening to it in full. There are a couple of efforts to make certain songs stand out. “Divide et Impera” brings in some clean female vocals, and several other tracks feature frontman Maurizio Iacono doing some talking (more like screaming though) parts, presumably directed at the lower members of the Roman Empire. The guitar work on this album is quite enjoyable, despite being less active than in other death metal bands. There aren’t a ton of solos, but the ones that are there fit perfectly. Likewise, this album isn’t a monolith of riffs, but the combination of keyboards and guitars reduce the need for more intensive guitars. The real highlight of this record is the outstanding vocals of Mr. Iacono. His growl is deep, but understandable. He truly does sound like an angry emperor giving orders.
If you have any interest in finding a band that is just a little bit different than the rest, Ex Deo is for you. While the Roman imagery is still relatively new and enticing, it is the overall performance that makes this record worth having. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, mount your steed and prepare for war!
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“Divide et Impera”
4.0/5 or 80%.