It was a sad say indeed when, on February 17th 2014, Canada’s Ex Deo announced they were going on an indefinite hiatus and a third album was “unlikely”. Thankfully, it transpires that the Canadian definition of “indefinite” means just over a year, and in the September of 2015, the band announced they were working on new material.
Formed in Montreal, Quebec in 2008 by the members of Kataklysm plus bass player Dano Apekian (Kataklysm bassist Stephane Barbe took on lead guitar duties alongside usual guitarist Jean Francois Dagenais), Ex Deo were a completely different beast to the other, more established Death Metal act.
Originally the brainchild of frontman Maurizio Iacono, an Italian born and raised in Canada, Ex Deo (Latin for “From God”) focused themselves on the history of the Roman Empire, keeping away from all the usual contemporary Death Metal subjects in favour of something more artistic.
Latest album The Immortal Wars (Napalm) sees the band writing chiefly about the Punic Wars from the time of the Roman Republic which preceded the Empire, and the battles between legendary Carthaginian commander, Hannibal Barca, and the Roman General who eventually defeated him, Scipio Africanus.
Opening with lumbering behemoth ‘The Rise of Hannibal’, it is clear the band are carrying on from where they left off on 2012’s Caligvla (Napalm) and have never sounded better. The pace quickens for ‘Hispania (The Siege of Saguntum)’ before ‘Crossing of the Alps’ seizes total command. Heavier than the forty war elephants Hannibal took on that famous journey, the song marches remorselessly into battle and is followed by the short but dramatic orchestral interlude, ‘Suavetaurilia (Intermezzo)’.
‘Cato Major (Carthago Delenda Est)’ is simply colossal. Translated to “Carthage must be destroyed”, the phrase “Carthago Delenda Est” was spoken frequently by Roman Senator, Cato Major, during his many speeches where he constantly rejected any notion of a peace treaty, and wished only for the total elimination of the enemies of Rome. Monstrous riffs aside, this is the first song where the orchestra sounds truly devastating, and quite similar in tone to the Iced Earth epic, ‘Gettysburg’.
‘Ad Victoriam (The Battle of Zama)’ sounds every bit as dramatic as you would expect for a song that depicts the battle which finally saw Scipio defeat Hannibal; while final tracks ‘The Spoils of War’, and the tremendous ‘The Roman’ close the book on this latest chapter of Ex Deo by leaving you wanting even more.
As ever, the steady, mid-paced tempo to most of Ex Deo’s songs may not appeal to those who prefer relentless blastbeats or hyperspeed riffs, but that approach simply wouldn’t work here. This is more like Amon Amarth with an orchestra, but with Romans instead of Vikings. Leave your over-the-top cartoon gore, or your politically conscious and socially aware Death Metal at the door and step into an orgy of historically influenced decadence, violence and war instead.