Described as ‘Italian led, converted Gauls, Ex Deo are basically Kataklysm with an extra member and some serious Roman Empire cosplaying… Not that there is anything wrong with this, the brand of symphonic death metal they sling is rather captivating and damn enjoyable. Much like Sabaton with their historical approach to song writing, Ex Deo instead focus more on one area than a general historical approach. Using the Roman Empire as inspiration, Maurizio Iacono and Ex Deo and the listener through tales of one of the greatest empires in history. This time, with a focus on the Carthage saga, Ex Deo return once more to defend their empire.

From the off, this is pretty much what you would expect from Ex Deo. The crushing, groove laden death metal is present, driving it on with serious heaviness and weight behind it but the tweaks made to it which help it differ from Kataklysm’s usual work is the very subtle militaristic feel of the music. The way the drums blast out, there are some parts which feel like a marching rhythm, fitting for tracks involving legionaries and centurions one would suppose.

The way this groove mixes in with the guitar and bass gives it that ferocity and intimidation factor you would expect if you were a soldier in that era, coming face to face with the might of the Roman Empire, and this reflection, be it the heavy as hell riffs, the thundering tone and raw power the stringed instruments bring, mixing superbly and working with a damn good synergy to the orchestral backing synths, giving it that intense and gripping atmosphere makes for a pretty solid song writing formula.

To highlight this, you simply have to listen to what I feel is the key track of this album musically: “Crossing The Alps”. Lyrically, it tells the tale of how Hannibal, leader of Carthage led his army round the natural defences of the Roman Empire in order to strike them where they least expected it, and musically, it helps tell this tale. The powerful musical drive which features the synth backdrop giving that epic orchestral feel and the solid riffs create an empowering feel and the groove underpinning it all is fantastic. Full of neck-wrenching grooves which simply demand gratuitous headbanging and furious windmilling, it has a real thunder behind it and there is a sense that you are actually experiencing what the song details lyrically as you listen.

Of course, the other tracks of the album have this gripping effect too. “Cato Major: Carthaga Delando Est!” Hits hard with its crushing grooves and monstrous tone whilst “Ad Victorium (The Battle Of Zama)” which follows it has even more fire and intensity in it, quite fitting when you see that it is a track about a battle. The pounding drums, intense symphonic elements and the precise and piercing heavy riffs all hit hard like a wall of noise you cannot escape from as it comes crashing down.

Granted there are some issues here and there. The slight predictability of some of the song structures is there in the way you can tell where the big, dramatic synth heavy sections are present and how the way this is delivered is very familiar, as you would expect since this is very Kataklysm influenced… But these slights aside, “The Immortal Wars” is a real solid album all round. The balance of symphonic augmentation and groove laden, heavy as fuck death metal works fantastic, giving it that extra edge in my mind to the usual sounds Kataklysm bring, and if I’m honest, the historical aspects of Ex Deo prove to be more interesting.

et ultra! nam gloria Metal

(VIII/X Fraggle)