Album review: Ex Deo – The Immortal Wars

Genre: Death metal / groove metal / symphonic metal

Release date: 24th February 2017

Record label: Napalm Records

exdeo-immortalwarsThe build-up to The Immortal Wars, the third album by Canadian aggressors Ex Deo, could be one of the most creatively baffling in recent memory. Despite it not being set for release until the 24th February 2017, the band and its label decided to jump the gun astonishingly early when it came to announcing this record, first unveiling it over a year ago in January 2016. Why Maurizio Iacono and co. decided to let the hype around The Immortal Wars build for 13 months is anyone’s guess. Maybe they wanted to put the rock n’ roll world on notice? Maybe they wanted to really stir the pot and let the levels of fan excitement reach boiling point? Maybe they just wanted the record to grab as many headlines as possible? At least when Avenged Sevenfold released The Stage out of nowhere in October, it felt like there was a point to it.

But, in any case, the album is finally almost upon us and, thankfully, it certainly isn’t a disappointment. For established Ex Deo fans (who haven’t heard new music from the group since 2012’s Caligvla), it’s business as usual: skull-grinding growls from Iacono – carrying over perfectly from his work in Kataklysm – big, symphonic vitality and groove metal-inspired attacks from joint shredders Stéphane Barbe and Jean-Francois Dagenais.

As overused as the word may be, the best adjective to describe The Immortal Wars is “epic”. The hard-hitting riffs and intense classical elements of such tracks as “The Roman”, “The Rise of Hannibal” and “Crossing of the Alps” make them instant, battle-hardened anthems that fit the band’s imperial imagery perfectly. And when the album’s central concept is that of the Punic Wars of 264–146 BCE, the music and the lyrics fit together like a hand in a glove.

However, the downside comes once it becomes apparent that The Immortal Wars is very much a record with a one-track mind. Once you get past the symphonic backing and the choirs and the death metal belligerence, what else does it really offer other than sheer, uninterrupted aggression? And even then, the violent imagery and style never really reach such over-the-top levels of bombast as, for example, Ex Deo’s speedier and more grandiose Roman contemporaries in Fleshgod Apocalypse, who are currently hot off the heels of the all-killer-no-filler King (2016).

Despite being a powerful record, The Immortal Wars never truly goes 100% on the gas, keeping to a more mid-paced, Pantera-esque speed. Objectively, it would be difficult to argue against this being a good album, and hardcore Ex Deo fans will definitely be satiated. But for newcomers, there are much better directions in which to point your extreme/symphonic metal-hungry ears.

Final rating: The Immortal Wars gets 6 centuries out of 10.

The Immortal Wars will be available physically and digitally via Napalm Records on 24th February.