Not too long after the legionnaires of Ex Deo announced that they would take a break from creating music (partially due to being to busy with Kataklysm), work on a third full-length was announced, called The Immortal Wars. I had anticipated a comeback at some point: the Italian roots of front man Maurizio Iacono would have eventually made him return to Ex Deo, but perhaps not as soon as one year after the break. All the better, more music for us!
The Immortal Wars is based on the tale (mainly on the Second Punic War – 218 to 201 BC) of the historic military commander Hannibal Barca of Carthage, this day seen as one of the greatest military strategists in history. The invasions of the nemesis of Rome and of course the crossing of the Alps make for epic material and you could also describe the record with similar terms. On this album the symphonics were contributed by Clemens ‘Ardek’ Wijers (Carach Angren) and they bring a notable change from the more bombastic Caligvla.
The record opens with ‘The Rise of Hannibal’, featuring the promise that Hannibal allegedly made to this father: ‘to never be a friend of Rome’. The contribution of Wijers is already notable in the sense that the symphonics are more rich, yet a bit less in your face (they blend in with the music better), giving the entire full-length a more of a filmic quality. The intermezzo ‘Suavetaurilia‘ (referring to one of the sacrificial rites of Roman religion where a pig, a sheep, and a bull were offered) emphasizes that even more. It’s not hard to imagine a procession and the suspension of such a ritual with a soundtrack like this.
The Immortal Wars is unmistakably an Ex Deo effort. The typical staccato riffs hit the listener like a whip, the drums are a constant driving force, giving you the idea of being in a never ending march of a legion. Alike the previous records, Iacono and his men frequently use spoken clips, for example on ‘Cato Major: Carthago delenda est!’ (‘Carthage must be destroyed’ – spoken by Roman statesman Cato the Elder in the senate).
A favourite is the ‘Ad Victoriam (The Battle of Zama)’, the battle where Hannibal was defeated by the Roman general Scipio. It’s basically the climax of the album: the rhythm makes it very catchy, and the lyrics (‘push, pull, divide and conquer!’) will have many fans shouting along if/when Ex Deo plays live. It’s also the heaviest track on the record, with a near 5 and a half minutes of marching and riffing galore.
All in all, Ex Deo has matured with The Immortal Wars. Caligvla was very catchy, but on this album the band members seem to have grown in bringing Roman epics to the populus by creating a more filmic atmosphere, partially thanks to the contribution of Ardek (still in Ex Deo style though, relentless and a bit over the top sometimes). What’s left to say? Well: Roma invicta!
Release date: February 24, 2017
Record label: Napalm Records
1. The Rise of Hannibal
2. Hispania (The Siege of Saguntum)
3. Crossing of the Alps
4. Suavetaurilia (Intermezzo)
5. Cato Major: Carthago delenda est!
6. Ad Victoriam (The Battle of Zama)
7. The Spoils of War
8. The Roman