Ex Deo – Caligvla
I’ll completely open about my dislike of growling and death metal- even melodic death metal. Though with this latter genre I do tend to like the music more if not the vocal style. But I was intrigued by the concept of Italy’s Ex Deo, a melodic death metal band whose subject matter is ancient Roman history, something that is right up my alley, since I studied it in university. When the promo became available to me, I decided to give it a whirl, and my God, I have spun this CD so many times in the past couple of weeks it’s actually shocking. In short, I love it.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, after all, that I like this as much as I do. Not only do I enjoy the topic, Caligvla, one of Rome’s most infamous emperors – for all the wrong reasons – but because the music surprised me with its epicness, it’s buoyant symphonics, and it’s songs with a lot of energy and bounce. As one reviewer pointed out, without the death metal vocals, we’d basically have a decent symphonic power metal thing going here. Now, this reviewer also panned the album, saying that it was too accessible and not “real” death metal. But perhaps it’s the accessibility of it that is making it appeal to me, a virtual neophyte to this kind of music. True, the song structures are basically symphonic power metal, so perhaps that familiarity worked in my favour, too.
The songs are ridiculously catchy. The opener, “I Caligvla”, starts off with a regal trumpet blare, accompanied by a choir chanting something probably in Latin (I lost all my Latin years ago), and lead singer, Maurizio Iacono (also of Kataklysm, I have no idea who they are) shouting: “On this glorious day, I declare, Gaius Augustus Germanicus emperor of Rome!” The song then chugs into the super hooky chorus:
I, Caligvla am god made flesh, thy rope around your neck… this is the will of the gods!
I, Caligvla am master of all your fears, thy might colossal, these hands are drenched in blood!
In fact, Maurizio shouts a lot on this album. Almost as much as he sings. There are also a lot of theatrical elements on this CD. For instance, in “I Caligvla” there is a clip of dialogue from what I presume is the 1979 movie, Caligvla, starring Malcom McDowell as that character. Another clip comes up later in the album, too, complete with whipping sounds and threats of crucifiction. There are also, father into the album, the sounds of battles, people dying, and clashes of swords. What it seems like to me is that Ex Deo’s purpose with this album is to create the soundtrack for Caligvla’s life and reign, and it works well if you look at it that way.
Caligvla was not a nice guy, so as you can guess, this is a pretty dark, bleak album thematically. And I really dug that because I felt that the music really represented the period of history well. The pounding, furious pace of some of the songs, the double bass, the dark and heavy riffing combined with more sinister orchestrations and choirs that give the atmosphere a dim feel were all so well executed to create a dramatic, goose bump-inducing listening experience.
As for the death metal vocal style, Maurizio is changing how I feel about them. I didn’t find his voice as grating as I find other death metal vocals, and I could more or less understand what he was singing, which is often a problem I have with this kind of music.
So I guess you could call me a fan. In fact, Ex Deo is on tour in North America right now with Septic Flesh, Krisiun, Melechesh, and Inquisition (non of these bands I’ve ever heard of!) and I plan on shelling out $35 on October 24 in Vancouver to go and see Ex Deo. The live version of “I Caligvla” will be worth it alone, methinks.
Allyson’s rating: 4.25 out of 5