REVIEW: EX DEO – “The Thirteen Years Of Nero”
Last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty, renowned tyrant, a victim of multiple plots against his life, primary suspect of putting an entire city in flames, matricide, and the first roman emperor to take his own life. Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus’ – which we, of course, know only as Nero – history, and legacy is reason enough to write a whole metal album about, and who better to do exactly that than a band that thrives on telling stories of ancient Rome? Ex Deo’s new epic, ‘The Thirteen Years of Nero’, is the fourth album in the Kataklysm-led Canadians’ discography, and allying their best production to date with the unique songwriting style of Maurizio Iacono and company, has the potential to be their most acclaimed one.
As it is with history, which suggests that Nero rose to power after his mother Agrippina fed Claudius – his adoptive father – poisoned mushrooms, the album also has plenty of bombastic moments, changes in dynamic and, why not, plot twists. Starting out with Nero’s famed speech upon the Roman Senate prepared by his mentor Seneca, “The Fall of Claudius” is a fitting beginning to the conceptual record, presenting the listener to the theatric elements that would surface throughout the whole endeavor while equally inserting a copious amount of brutality and rage instrumental-wise.
Betrayal, madness, revolt, conflicts…all elements that took part in Nero’s amazing rise and fall are translated with quality into the album’s overall atmosphere, which says a lot about Iacono’s songwriting prowess. Outstanding remarks like the merciless “Head of the Snake” (Nero’s matricide) and the orchestral and dynamic “Son of the Deified” (Nero’s passion for the acting and singing arts) are statements of this higher than average composition style.
Other acts like “Britannia: The 9th At Camulodonum” and “Boudicca (Queen Of The Iceni)” – the latter featuring the ingenious vocals of Unleash The Archers frontwoman Brittney Slayes – offer the bitter taste of death metal wine with unforgiving riffs and larger-than-life power, awarding the album with a greeted sense of heterogeneity. Think of Septicflesh-style orchestrations with Nile’s raw force and you’ll get a good idea of what to expect here.
Delivering vast doses of melodies, consistent pacing, persistent hammering intensity, and being that there is more than enough to keep you hooked in terms of lyrics and continuity, ‘The Thirteen Years of Nero’ has a tendency to make the time pass by in a blur if you’re not paying attention. Closer “The Revolt of Galba”, for instance, crowns Ex Deo’s achievement of succeeding in covering traditional elements of the extreme metal and bringing something else to the table, similar to giants like Borknagar, Fleshgod Apocalypse, and Rotting Christ. `
It’s hard to point out faults on an album that I’ve been waiting for with both anticipation and apprehension. Though better than ‘Romulus’ (2009) and on par in epicness and overall quality with the excellent ‘The Immortal Wars’ (2017), it falls short of beating the top-notch ‘Caligvla’ (2012), so it’s definitely not flawless. Having said that, the nuances, maturity, and strength that flow from ‘The Thirteen Years of Nero’ make the final product a must-buy for fans of Ex Deo and Kataklysm alike, as well as all others who enjoy death metal with orchestrations. So, if someone asks you “Quo Vadis?”, tell them: to listen to Ex Deo, because they kick a*s.