Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review: Ex Deo - Caligvla

It feels like a small eternity has passed by since Monteral based symphonic death metal group Ex Deo were first unleashed upon the world with their debut album, Romulus, but in reality it's only been three years; the band having formed in 2008 and released their first album in 2009. The Ex Deo fleet are made up of the current Kataklysm line up with keyboardist Jonathan Lefrancois-Leduc and bassist Fran├žois Mongrain thrown into the mix. In 2010 Kataklysm released Heaven's Venom, which took the band on a year long tour all over the world. Most recently, they've been hard at work promoting the five disc DVD set Iron Will, and audiences have been seeing Ex Deo pushed to the back lines in terms of new content. Finally, the end of last year saw numerous signs that began lifting Ex Deo out of near hiatus status and a new album has finally come to fruition. Has Caligvla been worth the tedious wait?

Genre: Symphonic Death Metal
Label: Napalm Records
Release Date: September 11th, 2012
  1. I, Caligvla
  2. The Tiberius Cliff (Exile to Capri)
  3. Per Oculos Aquila
  4. Pollice Verso (Damnatio Ad Bestia)
  5. Divide Et Impera
  6. Burned to Serve as Nocturnal Light
  7. Teutoburg (Ambush of Varus)
  8. Along the Appian Way
  9. Once Were Romans
  10. Evocatio: the Temple of Castor & Pollux
Total Playtime: 49 minutes, 29 seconds

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Rating: 8.0/10




It feels like a small eternity has passed by since Monteral based symphonic death metal group Ex Deo were first unleashed upon the world with their debut album, Romulus, but in reality it's only been three years; the band having formed in 2008 and released their first album in 2009. The Ex Deo fleet are made up of the current Kataklysm line up with keyboardist Jonathan Lefrancois-Leduc and bassist Fran├žois Mongrain thrown into the mix. In 2010 Kataklysm released Heaven's Venom, which took the band on a year long tour all over the world. Most recently, they've been hard at work promoting the five disc DVD set Iron Will, and audiences have been seeing Ex Deo pushed to the back lines in terms of new content. Finally, the end of last year saw numerous signs that began lifting Ex Deo out of near hiatus status and a new album has finally come to fruition. Has Caligvla been worth the tedious wait?

Anyone familiar with Kataklysm/Ex Deo lead singer Maurizio Iacono will know that he has a deep rooted passion for his Roman heritage, and this shines as bright as the sun reflecting from the straight blade of a gladius throughout the entire content of Caligvla. From beginning to end there is an unstoppable epicness  produced by synthetic horns, choirs and other effects via keyboards, that makes the album more theatrical than anything else. It's easy to imagine in the minds' eye a visual movie to this audible experience filled with gladiator battles, legions of war and profound cruelty of a leader. There is a dark overtone that wraps itself around the material as it focuses on the cruelties and torments which the Roman Emperor Caligula caused in his short four year reign that eventually came to an end when he became the first Roman Emperor to be assassinated.


The general song composures are made up of your basic death metal formula; blast beats, tremolo picking, growling vocals, some double bass drumming and rolls, and a good mixture of tempo changes. The guitars give a chugging, daunting sound that feeds the content an even darker feel alongside the keyboards. This is enhanced by the scattered, fast tremolo picking of a secondary guitar. Maurizio's vocals possess an ever growing black metal style to them, which stands powerful throughout the entire content. This man has really poured his essence into these vocal tracks and it seeps from every anguished cry he gives. Max's drumming skills are still as tight, fast and melodious as ever and provide a great backing track to everything. This group has always worked together flawlessly in Kataklysm, and it carries over well to Ex Deo. Jonathan Lefrancois-Leduc does an amazing job with the keyboards, and the orchestral compositions are very complex and melodic. Often, they set the main hooks of the songs and do leave a heavy, memorable lasting impression once everything is said and done, but the keyboards could have been put to a more effective purpose rather than becoming a borderline overbearing element and instead used to emphasize more powerful areas of tracks.

Some of the stronger songs found here are "I, Caligvla" which starts the album with a noble styled keyboard intro that almost sounds like something that would come from In Sorte Diaboli from black metal group Dimmu Borgir. "Divide Et Impera" which has an incorporation of three other backing vocalists, one being a female, and is also one of the heaviest and more melodic songs on Caligvla. "Burned to Serve as Nocturnal Light" is also a track well worth mentioning, in that up to this point in the album most of the solos are fairly lackluster in comparison to what the band are actually capable of. Within this song lies the solo with the fastest scales mixed with fluid sweeps and tapping that could melt the very armor of the Roman enemy. "Once Were Romans" and the instrumental last track, "Evocatio: the Temple of Castor & Pollux", are also songs that stand out and are worth mentioning.

Overall, Caligvla is an enjoyable experience. Especially for those enthralled with Rome and all the history that lies behind one of the mightiest empires in the world's history. The production values are crisp and clear, however sometimes the mixing seems to be a little left speaker heavy, but this only occurs during a few songs and could be fixed in the future by mixing the lead guitar that's left in the right speaker a little higher since it comes across too soft. The composure of the material as a whole is incredible, but heavily reliant on keyboards and synthesized sounds. This isn't a far step up from Romulus, and the sound here hasn't progressed or changed much, but it's still a great release by Ex Deo worth many repeat plays.

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