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EX DEO     The Thirteen Years of Nero




Ex Deo are:
  • Maurizio Iacono - vocals
  • Stéphane Barbe - lead guitar
  • Jean-François Dagenais - guitar
  • Dano Apekian - bass
  • Jeramie Kling . drums

"The Thirteen Years Of Nero" is produced by J-F Dagenais, recorded at JFD Studio, Dallas TX
and mixed and mastered by J-F Dagenais.
Vocals are recorded at The Cabin Studio, Orlando, FL.
Drums are recorded by Jeramie Kling at Smoke And Mirrors Studio in Spring Hill, FL.
All Orchestration by Clemens Vijers-
All Music by Ex Deo.
All Lyrics by Maurizio Iacono.
Cover Artwork by Seth Siro Anton.
Layout by Oculta Designs.
Label: Napalm Records.
1. The Fall of Claudius
2. Imperator
3. The Head of the Snake
4. Boudicca (Queen of the Iceni) Feat. Brittney Slayes
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
 Three official videos are placed after the review.
When Symphonic Metal joins culture and knowledge, listening to it becomes an experience. And the experience is even bigger when a well-defined concept is explored. If you are attracted towards history and in particular the history of Ancient Rome, you already know Ex Deo, the arsenal around Maurizio Iacono from Kataklysm, and, very probably you have become a fan.  Ex Deo have been forged as the Legion XIII, which accompanies us to unveil in music multiple sides of Rome. Rome as Empire, and not only:  Ex Deo's debut album, entitled "Romulus", that started from Romulus the traditional founder and the first king of Rome as legend says, passing through  Cesar's battle of Alesia arriving till the Pantheon. The Punic Wars were the awesome theme of Ex Deo's third album released in February 2017, "The Immortal Wars".  The Punic Wars, which took place between 264 and 146 BC, were fought between the Roman Republic (Republic and not Empire) and Ancient Carthage. I think we need to remind how beautiful was the music of The Immortal Wars and how superb was the cover artwork, all layouts, and the digipack cd as a whole. Unfortunately, most of the history school books are not made that way.
Saying that Ex Deo's lyrics and music are just inspired by the Roman Empire is, therefore, a limitation. There was a mighty Rome before its empire and after. Just look around yourself and think of the countless things that still today are the heritage of the Roman culture (welfare programs,  irrigation systems, law and politics, architecture, languages, art, literature, medicine, and so on and on). 
 Musically speaking, a limitation is to think that Ex Deo is just a side project of Kataklysm. In years Ex Deo have developed their own image and their own sound. The Thirteen Years of Nero is already the fourth album for Ex Deo (not bad for a Juno Award-nominated "side project", uh?) and very probably we don't have to wait that long for the dawn of a fifth album.
After four years, after "Romulus", "Caligula", "The Immortal Wars", Ex Deo are even more brutal than before yet always so cinematic. Yes, many people use the word "cinematic" for Ex Deo and they are right: there is no other word indeed that can immediately give the idea.
In this album too we have two guitars and a bass (this makes a big difference from Kataklysm)  together with some confirmations and new traits. The lineup sees Stéphane Barbe as lead guitarist playing all guitar solos, J-F Dagenais, guitarist, producer and recording engineer, Dano Apekian bassist, and Jeramie Kling (Venom Inc.) as the new drummer. All majestic orchestration is "signed" by Clemens Vijers like it was for "The Immortal Wars".  I can only imagine that behind "The Thirteen Years of Nero" there is a big amount of very professional work, I say I Imagine because by listening to it I just fly away in time and space. I don't perceive the work, I just perceive the atmosphere of that era.
Ex Deo are not afraid to face the drama, the evil, the pain and the wickedness. On the contrary, they twist their knife in the wound. This time they deal with the Antichrist: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known as the tyrannical, insane and sexually dissolute Emperor who "burnt Rome", well...better known simply as Nero. The fact that Nero promoted athletic games and performed as a musician, actor, poet, becoming this way popular among lower-class citizens, but hated by local upper classes and elites doesn't interest anyone nowadays. 
How does appear Nero and the difficult aspects and turmoil around him through the music of Ex Deo? The first thing to underline is the use of instruments like harp and lyra that contribute to creating the atmosphere we are looking for. The track "The Fall Of Claudius" is the opener and begins with an intro: a part of the speech from the unfinished (and maybe cursed) film, ‘I, Claudius’ (1937) spoken by Charles Laughton, who played Emperor Claudius. The song starts with heavy, dark, massive rhythmics and develops in mid-tempo an ambiance full of impending danger with warning choruses and a haunting melody, and savage dissonant guitar sounds. I would underline how mighty the rhythmics are in guitar, bass, and drums and how everything is perfectly coordinated with vocals integrated into this dark carpet. Why Claudius? When Nero's father died, his mother Agrippina (the younger sister of Caligula) married Emperor Claudius who adopted Nero, making him his heir. Ex Deo's lyrics are clear: " Still hypnotized by her, Agrippina, my goddess, my queen".
"Imperator", the second track, is totally cinematic, spiced up with some oriental sounds, vocals are brutal, brutal as the bone-crushing guitars, yet the whole is not a bazaar of hard noise, on the contrary, everything is extremely disciplined, all sounds very clear, every instrument very distinguishable. The detail that hit me the most is how modern this track can be, although merged in ancient and unholy horror "Antichrist ...Worship...Forever...Antichrist". How to sound ancient, sounding at the same time modern anyway. This is really no easy task.
"The Head Of The Snake" is a truly symphonic melodic death metal full of disillusioned rage. Choruses are threatening, guitars are hunting. "Mother how have the gods betrayed you, you cradled me into a monster". 
The fourth track is the awesome "Boudicca (Queen of the Iceni)" that features the vocals of Unleash The Archers' frontwoman Brittney Slayes. This track gives you everything you need in symphonic metal. Heaviness, enjoyable riffs with dark background, enchanting melody with female vocals. 

"Britannia: The 9th At Camulodonum” is one of the most symphonic and cinematic tracks of this album if we can say so. Vocals are evil screams, the sound is a mix between roaring ancient atmospheres and spy action movies. It is up-tempo, it is spectral, it is dangerous. 


The instrumental "Trial Of The Gods" is a symphonic heavy, mysterious intermezzo with isolated sinister drums, that paves the way for the sixth track " The Fiddle And The Fire’. A beautiful blend of middle oriental, Mediterranean flavors merged in brutally dark rhythmics from which captivating melodies grow and fly. "The Fiddle And The Fire is a little, big gem that every metalhead should listen to.


In the "Son of The Deified" the lead guitar and the rhythmic section are the center of gravity. It results even disruptive in its marked rhythm.  In "What Artist Dies in Me..." again the lead takes off climbing mountains of rage. How many chords are here functioning dynamically while the vocals are more mischievously spoken than sung. So many elements are in balance and this can be done only by true musicians who master their instruments this way. What?  It should be obvious in metal? Nope, it's not.


"The Revolt Of Galba" is marked by pitiless rhythmic walls that make the day of all metalheads together with symphonic instrumentations that go from heavy to delicate presenting everything, all-encompassing, from cellos to horns and sour vocals. This song is killing it live! "The Revolt of Galba" ends a great album making it memorable and ends "in music" a controversial piece of history.


"The Thirteen Years Of Nero" is a time machine. Take a journey and meet Nero. If you dare.


 "As the dust settles in the night
The old voices of the fallen
Emperors of fortitude
Come to haunt the once glorious lands
You can still hear Nero's poems
In the arena of death"

                              Maurizio Iacono



review by dalia di giacomo               9/10


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