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Ex Deo: The Thirteen Years of Nero

The side project of Kataklysm frontman Maurizio Iacono, Ex Deo are a symphonic death metal band that (as their name alludes to) exclusively covers the affairs of ancient Rome with a chunky, percussive panache. Their newest album, The Thirteen Years of Nero, is a formidable and crunchy telling of Rome's much maligned eponymous 5th emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. Through the course of the album's 10 tracks, we learn about Nero's ascent, rule, and subsequent downfall. It's quite the journey, and Ex Deo deliver plenty of bombastic moments to accompany it.

Musically, there's two distinct elements to Ex Deo's sound. The backbone of the band is a stompy and detuned old school brand of death metal that you might expect to clash with any symphonic elements that may be brought to the table. This second "symphonic" element is more to supplement the oppressive and dark themes and melodies that the metal elements provide. This isn't a bouncy, triumphant, or whimsical symphonic metal band. The strings, horns, and drums are storming, unmerciful, and bring with them an ominous dark cloud that rarely (if ever) lifts. Think of the moment in nearly every sword and sandals epic when the antagonistic army or force is mounting an offensive and all hope seems lost for our heroes. That is basically what the symphonic elements bring to the table in all 48 minutes of The Thirteen Years of Nero. Crushing, unwavering, and unending darkness. It's commendable.

While Ex Deo nail the tone and vibe perfectly in The Thirteen Years of Nero, there's a lack of memorability and diversity that is somewhat lacking. As previously stated, the band tend to stick to a slow to pid paced stomp as their cruise control speed and while it does work masterfully to deliver an air of despair and madness, it can get to be a bit of a slog. Most of the best songs are the ones that buck this trend in some way; be it "Boudicca (Queen of the Iceni) (Which features a fantastic guest vocal performance from Brittany Slayes) with it's tragically triumphant chorus melodies or the majestic "The Fiddle and The Fire'', I can't help but feel that The Thirteen Years of Nero would greatly benefit from an injection of contrast or melodicism. Probably just my traditional metal colors peeking through, but I stand by it.

Performance wise, it's all well done. Iacono's vocals and lyrics are the highlights of the album aside from the bombast and booming percussive thump of the orchestra from hell, and it's clear he's done his research on the topic at hand as well. He offers us a truly chilling and macabre look into the thoughts of a Nero in decline as Emperor, with all the paranoia and madness you'd expect from a crazy tyrannical ancient ruler. Instrumentation is done well, but it's fairly basic and by the numbers stuff as it tends to provide a backdrop for what's going on thematically and orchestrally. Dissonance, trem picking, and subtle harmonies are injected frequently to spice things up just enough.

I'd say The Thirteen Years of Nero's greatest strength is just the unrelenting feeling of dread and doom that never lets up. From the opening speech provided by Nero's direct predecessor Claudius, you just know shit is going to go down on this record, and not in a good way. A hellish and bleak ride the entire way through, this is an album to at least give a listen to if you are a fan of Kataklysm, Fleshgod Apocalypse, or even of Amon Amarth's more solemn and dark moments. Ave Roma.


Tracklist:
1. The Fall of Claudius
2. Imperator
3. The Head of the Snake
4. Boudicca (Queen of the Iceni)
5. Britannia: The 9th at Camulodonum
6. Trial of the Gods (Intermezzo)
7. The Fiddle & the Fire
8. Son of the Deified
9. What Artist Dies in Me…
10. The Revolt of Galba

Added: December 22nd 2021
Reviewer: Brandon Miles
Score:
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 117
Language: english

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