Caligvla is the second album by Canadian symphonic death metal act Ex Deo. The album was released in 2012. Ex Deo is essentially a Kataklysm side-project headed by vocalist Maurizio Iacono, but also featuring Max Duhamel (drums), Jean-François Dagenais (guitars), Stéphane Barbe (guitars (bass in Kataklysm)), all of whom make up the current Kataklysm line-up. Ex Deo is completed by François Mongrain (bass), who has performed live with the main band and Jonathan Lefrancois-Leduc (keyboards), who formerly performed with melodic death metal act Blackguard. The band’s music follows a Roman theme both lyrically and in terms of imagery, as with their previous album Romulus (2009)
The symphonic death metal style that Ex Deo delivers has really been gaining ground over the last couple of years. I imagine that it may even become as commonplace as symphonic black metal has done in a few more, although there is potential for that to end up being boyh a good and a bad thing. Right now there are still a relatively small number of acts adding symphonic elements to a death metal sound, at least compared to the amount doing it with black metal, and what makes this style so interesting right now is that with it still in such an early stage the artists making names for themselves each have their own thing to bring to the table. On Caligvla Ex Deo takes a more melodic route to the intense brutal death metal of Fleshgod Apocalypse’s Agony (2011), but they are also more direct in their songwriting them the often eerie sound of Septicflesh’s (whose Spiros Antoniou guests on Caligvla) The Great Mass (2011) and the songs are allowed to be simpler in terms of structure than MaYaN’s progressive take on Quarterpast (2011). With so many different approaches to the same basic principle this is definitely an emerging style that should be paid attention to, as to these ears it clearly offers a lot of substance and variety for the more demanding metalhead among us.
As it is Ex Deo’s Caligvla, though solidly composed and full of epic symphonic parts, doesn’t come across as one of the style's early masterpieces. This is still a great album, but I find that the somewhat theatrical approach to parts of the vocals to be off-putting to my enjoyment of the album. Those vocals, which are best described as a death growling styled rallying call or similar, are in keeping with Ex Deo’s Roman theme, but that does not of course mean that they automatically add something enjoyable to the release. There are also seems to be more focus on the symphonic element in the music, which is of course good for the genre but there are a few instances in the album that I could wish for a few more interesting riffs, which is ultimately what keeps the album off the really high tier scores, but Caligvla is well performed and produced however and despite its faults it does make an ultimately satisfying listen and anyone who liked any of the albums mentioned earlier in this review is advised to give Caligvla a go. A great album tier rating is deserved.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org) on 16/09/12)