Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ex Deo - Romulus

I’ve been listening to Ex Deo since the start, so I sort of have a sense of pride that I will be following them throughout their entire career. I have in fact had the pleasure of witnessing one of their live performances (and probably will again because they are coming to Seattle again on the Paganfest tour). For those of you that can’t quite put your finger on what these guys’ theme is, it’s Ancient Rome. Although they focus more on the aspects of battles and wars that the Romans were involved in, there is quite a bit of Ancient Roman mythology entwined in their lyrics and is further expressed in their music. For those of you history fans that were intrigued by bands with ancient mythology and folklore themes like Behemoth, Amorphis, and Nile, Ex Deo explores realms that metal has never before set foot in. Prepare yourself to be taken on a journey back in time to a thriving empire that lasted longer than any other civilization has.

Ex Deo is pretty much the members of Kataklysm plus a member from Blackguard. Although when you see Ex Deo, you won’t be able to tell it’s Kataklysm (unless you know the vocalist’s face really well) because instead of having hair below their shoulders and wearing jeans and black shirts, they’re wearing leather armor, they have their hair tied back tightly, and they’re wearing the symbols of the Ancient Roman Military. I have always loved it when extreme metal bands chose to step away from the traditional themes of death, destruction, anger, and gore and create something that the metalhead community hasn’t seen before. Although this theme is now commonly used, I still love it when the technical death bands chose to go into a science fiction area (mainly cause I’m a sci-fi geek). There are also an increasing number of bands embracing ancient middle-eastern and European themes.

The vocalist for Kataklysm has an extremely brutal and powerful sound to his vocals, making it perfect for the traditional death metal style that Kataklysm plays. But now we have him doing vocals in a melodic death band; it actually sounds really cool! My favorite track still remains the opening song, Romulus. The song starts with the sounds of a windy battlefield as if representing the aftermath of a war scene. His voice then pierces the air belting out the name Romulus. Romulus is the twin brother of Remus, who are said to be the mythological characters who founded the beginning of what would lead into most of the Roman Mythology tales we hear about in our history classes. In Ancient Rome, the twins were taught to the kids as being the ones who founded the Roman Empire (mostly Romulus though). Romulus and Remus were said to be raised by a wolf (therefore supporting the second line of the song “from the wolf’s mouth”). It was said that Romulus wanted to create a certain kind of empire, and Remus wanted a different kind. Even though most of the other people’s opinions were in favor of Rumulus’, the twins were still partial to their own desires. This ended up in a series of fights and disputes between the brothers which eventually ended up with Romulus killing Remus, therefore making Romulus the “true founder” of what became one of the most powerful civilizations that has ever existed.

Enough history, let’s talk about the music that this album fires at you. I’m not sure how to effectively describe the term “epic”, but for those of you that know that something’s epic when you hear it; this album has an extraordinarily epic sound. I’m going to admit that the instrumentation is extremely simple (sorry to break that to those of you technical metal fans). There are several people out there that dislike this record because of its simplicity boring them to sleep. But for me, being a fan of all kinds of music, the mood that this album ignites in the listener is what keeps me engaged in the music. So if you’re an amateur musician that wants to be able to play some metal, this is a good start. But I honestly don’t think that the lack of complexity and technicality in the music is unintentional and due to a lack of creativity; I believe it was done intentionally because for some reason, that’s what the band thought the music needed to sound like.

For being a band that has only released one album, I’m impressed with how high the positions are that they get placed on tours. When I saw them, they were the last band to come on before the headliner of the tour which was Nile. And I’m aware that they’ve headlined at least one Canadian tour and have gotten high ranks on European tours and now getting the spot below the headliner of this year’s Paganfest tour. And I know that this is most likely because Kataklysm is so huge, but it’s still impressive.

Kataklysm has expressed their ability to compose creative and inventive music of several different genres. They apparently liked the melodic death sound so much that they decided to make a whole other band/side project so that they could have something to vent out all of their melodic creativity so they could keep making the signature Kataklysm sound that everyone loves. I would give this album 18/20 so that there is room for improvement.