EX DEO – “The Album Is Called The Immortal Wars For A Good Reason”
February 21, 2017, a month ago
Heavy metal and history always go great together.
And the Canadian-based, Roman-themed symphonic death metal band Ex Deo is no exception.
On its epic third full-length concept album, The Immortal Wars (released February 24th via Napalm Records) — its first in five years — the band has one-upped itself from its previous two albums.
Frontman Maurizio Iacono (also of Kataklysm), has carved out a nice little niche within the metal world. By combining his Italian heritage with a heavy musical concept, Ex Deo has essentially created its own metal sub-genre. What Amon Amarth is to Viking metal, Ex Deo is to Roman metal.
The album’s concept is based on the historic Punic Wars, which were three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 B.C. to 146 B.C. In particular, the storyline follows the actions and imagined mindset of its two main characters, Hannibal (General of Carthage) and Scipio Africanus (General of Rome), who are regarded as two of the greatest generals to ever command an Army.
“It’s a fascinating part of history because it rewrote the entire world,” Iacono begins. “It could have easily been the other way around, and then Italians would be different people. We might not even exist, me and you.”
From the explosive opening track, “The Rise Of Hannibal,” the narration and storyline sets the tone for the rest of the record.
“The album is called The Immortal War for a good reason,” Iacono begins. “I think it also reflects what’s happening today. Back then it was because of providence; territorial gain. That’s what they fought for back then. Today it’s the same thing, only replaced by religion. Crazy time back then, crazy time now.”
Trying to persuade someone to be interested in a historical event that happened over 2,000 years ago may fall on deaf ears. However, Iacono doesn’t see it that way. The Immortal Wars isn’t a boring history lesson, either. It’s the type of album that makes you want to seek out more information about it.
“It’s a very detailed and technical aspect,” Iacono stated. “You don’t want to bore the fans. You want to keep them interested and make them understand what it is. So we’re doing a very poetic version of it. I also marry a lot of it inside the album to make it seem like you’re really there fighting right on the battlefield.”
Keeping in mind the musical flow and attention to details, the band implemented a plethora of dramatic buildups and exciting passages throughout the record. Midway through, instrumental “Suavetaurilia (Intermezzo)” serves as a brief intermission, as if Immortal Wars was a theatrical play, before getting back into the action with the back half of the album.
“I think with a record like this, the details and the dramatic parts needed to be in there,” Iacono stated. “You want to feel like you’re part of the story and you want to kind of imagine what’s going on. It’s very important to have that aspect. Anybody can just grab a book and read it. Anybody can talk about it, but without any passion behind it, it’s pointless.”
To help with the cinematic aspect of the album, keyboardist Ardek from symphonic black metal band Carach Angren was brought on board to create the chilling orchestral arrangements.
“For some reason with Ardek, it was more of a connection into the world of grandiose and symphonic type of thing that I was looking for. He had the right touch and I wanted to explore it with him more. I worked very closely with him. I did give him some free hand to explore ideas. But I was behind every moment for approval and to look at the direction that I needed to do because it’s a concept record. It needs to flow from one song to the other.”
As on previous Ex Deo records, guitarist J-F Dagenais once again took on production duties while the in-demand recording engineer, Jens Bogren (Opeth, Kreator), mixed it. Immortal Wars achieves a more robust, grandiose sound compared to its previous albums.
“It had a different touch as far as the mix is concerned,” Iacono said. “We wanted a more full sound and the guitars to be a lot more in the attack mode on this record. We kind of put the music a little bit stronger on the orchestra compared to what we’ve done in the past. But I think it blended right and he did a phenomenal job.”
Continuously expanding the Roman theme, Iacono admitted that there’s a wealth of material and endless topics throughout history for him to draw upon.
“There’s a thousand years of history,” Iacono said. “There’s so much stuff in there that we can collect from and so many personalities, emperors and crazy stuff that’s happened. You have way more material than any other genre put together. On top of that, Rome also has its mythological part similar to the Vikings. You have this crazy connection between all of it. Rome has so much more influence on the world.”
Iacono hasn’t quit his day job in Kataklysm. The band is still finishing up its touring cycle for 2015’s Of Ghosts and Gods, while Ex Deo’s touring plans are still up in the air.
“It’s been almost two years since it came out,” he concluded. “We’re doing select shows in Europe on a two-week run, 14-15 shows where we’re going to play Shadows & Dust In its entirety live. We’ll do some shows in Canada as well for it. It’s very limited stuff to celebrate the 25th anniversary. The Ex Deo record is just about ready to drop next month so we don’t know what’s going to happen with it. For now, we don’t have any plans to tour with it.”