“Ex Deo” The Immortal Wars – CD REVIEW by Adam McCann
Record: Napalm Records 2017
Heavy metal and history have always walked hand in hand together, whether addressing war, serial killers, ancient rituals or texts, there is no denying that heavy metal fits this like a hand in a glove. As a genre itself, there are those that choose to focus on historical themes more than others, accolades for this go to Sabaton and Civil War for their themes on war, Nile for incorporating ancient Egyptian themes and instrumentation into their death metal and Amon Amarth for well, Vikings. However, Canada’s Ex Deo have chosen their era of speciality as the Roman Empire.
Ex Deo began life as a side project for Maurizio Iacono of Kataklysm and after a short break, Ex Deo are back with their third album; The Immortal Wars. This album chooses to focus on The Second Punic War fought between the Roman and the Carthaginian Empires, two growing empires that would inevitably clash over who controlled the Mediterranean. The Immortal Wars is interesting because it is split into two distinct sections split with an intermission; part one tells the story of Hannibal whilst part two tells the story of Rome. This layout makes the album both easy and interesting to listen to and follow.
Let a thousand horns and war drums signal the start to The Immortal Wars as Ex Deo waste no time in getting to the point with The Rise of Hannibal. The Rise of Hannibal is exactly what it needs to be, it’s angry, frothing with venomous bile for the Roman nation, with the Carthaginian’s still licking their wounds from the First Punic War. General Hannibal swears by the blood of his father that he will never be a friend of Rome; this is just one of the many soundbite interjections that help push the story along and give the feeling that you’re stood with Hannibal on the battlefield or stood amongst squabbling Senators on the floor of the Roman Senate.
The Rise of Hannibal seriously sets the tone for the remainder of The Immortal Wars. The Carthaginian side of the album is hell bent on destruction and this suits the vocals of Iacono perfectly who coherently growls his way through in a way that those who are not a fan of this type of death metal would be able to follow and actually enjoy. Hispania (Siege of Saguntum) and Crossing of the Alps take you on a better journey than any history book could and this is down to the song writing, Iacono and the rest of the legion have excelled themselves once more, a certain feat indeed since 2012’s Caligvla was a pinnacle for Ex Deo.
Following an intermission, this is where The Immortal Wars steps up its game, Cato Major: Cathago Delenda Est! focuses on the Roman fightback against the Carthaginian army and is written in such a way that if you felt sympathy in the first half of the album for Hannibal and his plight, the second half will have you rooting for a Roman victory – once more a testament to Iacono’s song writing. The second half is bursting with fantastic orchestrations, a horn and woodwind section behind the hammering of death metal, songs such as Ad Victoriam (The Battle of Zama) and The Roman are seriously enhanced by the atmospheric orchestrations that actually make The Immortal Wars so endearing.
The Immortal Wars is the highlight of Ex Deo’s career so far and the album gets better with every play. If you’re a fan of history and metal, then go and buy it, it’s fun and brilliantly put together. The only downside is as good as Kataklysm are, they will always take priority over Ex Deo and that is actually a shame. Buy it, play it loud and exclaim: “I AM ROMAN!” 8/10
Adam McCann / MHF Magazine