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EX DEO The Immortal Wars

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Friday, April 21, 2017 @ 1:35 PM


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EX DEO
The Immortal Wars

Napalm Records




After having been on hiatus for an 18-month stretch from early 2014 to late 2015, the Canadian-born symphonic death metal horde EX DEO reconvened to tell more epic tales of ancient Rome. Two years later, the band’s third album – and first in nearly five years – has finally been unleashed.

Perhaps a bit leaner and meaner than its predecessors at eight songs over 38 minutes – 2009’s debut Romulus clocked in at over an hour – The Immortal Wars is no less grand or ambitious. The orchestral pomp and dramatic flourishes remain, and the album’s main theme revolves around the Punic Wars fought between Carthage and Rome from 264 B.C. to 146 B.C. and the near-mythic commanders Hannibal and Scipio Africanus who led the opposing forces at various stages. It’s pretty involved stuff, all of which makes the taut, concise presentation that much more laudable and appreciated.

Spearheaded by KATAKLYSM frontman Maurizio Iacono, and featuring the entire rest of the band – guitarist/producer Jean-François Dagenais, bassist Stéphane Barbe who plays lead guitar here and drummer Oli Beaudoin being joined by ASHES OF EDEN bassist Dano Apekian, with CARACH ANGREN keyboardist Clemens “Ardek” Wijers providing the orchestration – EX DEO essentially picks up where it left off with 2012’s Caligvla. There’s a different narrative and a whole new cast of characters, but the execution — which recalls both AMON AMARTH and SEPTICFLESH — and setting are largely similar.

The Immortal Wars opens with the imposing “The Rise Of Hannibal”, which sets the stage for what’s to come as the young Hannibal – at least as channeled by Iacono in a spoken word verse - boasts “I am the son of Carthage, and let the blood of Rome flow in the oceans of war.” Its crunching, chugging gait is punctuated by the symphonic grandeur provided by Wijers and makes for a stirring start – even if the pledge will come back to haunt Carthage.

“Hispania (The Siege Of Saguntum)” and “Crossing The Alps” — a trek Hannibal attempted with three-dozen “war elephants” — are more up tempo, opulent and occasionally black metally, building briskly to the short classical instrumental “Suavetaurilia (Intermezzo)” that serves as a bridge to the “defense of Rome” portion of the album.

The jog-and-sprint bluster of “Cato Major: Carthago Delenda Est!” gets drowned out a bit by the accompanying orchestration, speechifying and sound effects, and is the one track where the window-dressing is laid on too thick. “Ad Victoriam (The Battle Of Zama)” and “The Spoils Of War” get things back into proper balance, with the effects providing flavor and contrast instead of distraction and letting the band’s metallic muscle carry the load.

“The Roman” concludes the album in fittingly resounding fashion, serving as something of a victory lap. The Roman Republic not only staved off the Carthaginian assaults in the first two Punic Wars, it turned the tide in the third and last in dramatic fashion, destroying the city of Carthage, annexing all its territory and killing or enslaving the entire Carthaginian population. “Ave Roma!” Iacono thunders as the band rages in the finale. Indeed.

4.0 Out Of 5.0

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