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Ex Deo - The Thirteen Years Of Nero review


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Band: Ex Deo
Album: The Thirteen Years Of Nero
Release date: August 2021

01. The Fall Of Claudius
02. Imperator
03. The Head Of The Snake
04. Boudicca (Queen Of The Iceni) [feat. Brittney Slayes]
05. Britannia: The 9th At Camulodonum
06. Trial Of The Gods (Intermezzo)
07. The Fiddle & The Fire
08. Son Of The Deified
09. What Artist Dies In Me
10. The Revolt Of Galba

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!

If you thought Sabaton had a monopoly on the history textbooks then you clearly haven't heard of Ex Deo and their Roman-themed metal. Having prised open the chapter dealing with Rome's fifth emperor Nero, The Thirteen Years Of Nero picks for itself a rich subject that is fertile ground for metal artists and one that the band bring to life in loud and vivid fashion. Ex Deo may have had an uphill struggle to establish themselves as more than just the Kataklysm lads out larping, but those who have followed the band know that the band have slowly improved even against the tide of general opinion, and with their fourth album, The Thirteen Years Of Nero, the band serve their emperor well, I mean, serve their fans well.

From the opening monologue of "The Fall Of Claudius", Ex Deo's take on death metal will have you enraptured with its mix of rich symphonic bombast and overarching thematic take on one of history's most notorious figures. "The Head Of The Snake" is a compelling track that outlines Nero's descent into tyranny, while the three-track run of "Boudicca (Queen Of The Iceni)" through "Trail Of The Gods" brings to life the Boudican rebellion and may leave a few facts in your head if you don't shake them all out headbanging. Where The Thirteen Years Of Nero hits its stride is when it hits that sweet spot where the symphonic elements complement and add grandiosity to the song's death metal core, with "The Fiddle And Fire" worth it for the soundtrack alone and highlighting where the band's strengths lie. The album's closing track "The Revolt Of Galba" sees the band throw everything at the wall to create some heavily orchestrated moments that serve to end the album with an epic crescendo.

The real star of the show is Clemens Wijers whose work behind the keyboards is responsible for the symphonic element of the album's sound and what gives The Thirteen Years Of Nero its flair and ear-catching moments. Iacono's vocals are divisive at the best of times and here they are no different; while his roaring approach does get monotonus after a while and make you long for a bit of variation on occasion, there is no denying that at times it fits in quite well, such as on "Imperator".

It is this lack of variety that proves to be the album's biggest drawback; Wijers aside, there is a lack of diversity on the rest of the band's part that does make the album age much faster than it should, going from fresh-sounding to stale uncomfortably quick. It isn't helped that, stripped down, much of The Thirteen Years Of Nero is fairly bog-standard death metal, and it is in those moments when your attention isn't drawn away from it ("Son Of The Deified") that the album loses a lot of its lustre. The Thirteen Years Of Nero also faces one of the more common shortcomings with concept albums, that being the album fares much better when listened to in chunks rather than tracks heard individually; however, rather than it causing the narrative to fall apart as is normally the case, the tracks just don't have the legs to stand up on their own. "Britannia: The 9th at Camulodonum" is a good song but its grandiosity is stymied without the preceding "Boudicca (Queen Of The Iceni)" to set the scene, which in turn means that if you're looking for something to listen to casually then you may find this album falls short.

Ex Deo may not convert many of the heathen masses to their legions with The Thirteen Years Of Nero, but those that do decide to stand under the imperial banner will find themselves an album with enough moments to make the record more than worth their while.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 6
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 5
Production: 7

Written on 23.08.2021 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.


Comments: 4   Visited by: 120 users
23.08.2021 - 13:50

This band has great ideas and great potential. They just seem to settle for doing just good enough. Pass or fail, they really need to take a risk.
23.08.2021 - 15:41
Green Devil
I actually prefer Ex Deo over Kataklysm and I still hold "I, Caligvla" as one of if not the best symphonic death metal song ever made. It's a bold statement, yes, but it's just my opinion of course. With that said I'm really looking forward to this album since I have a soft spot for everything Roman and ancient Greek in metal.
"When you are dead, you do not know you are dead. It's only painful for others. The same applies when you are stupid." - Ricky Gervais
23.08.2021 - 19:44

Very unfortunate to see both Kataklysm and E-Deo churn out such mediocrity. The well is clearly bone dry
27.08.2021 - 20:18
Green Devil
Alright, I've given the album quite a few spins today and I really enjoy it. Although I disagree with the review on two points.
Number one: I don't think it lacks variety. The lyrics on "The Head Of The Snake" really stands out from the rest of the songs. Brittney Slayes is great on "Boudicca (Queen Of The Iceni)" and her voice gives a nice contrast to Mauricio's harsh vocals. "Trial Of The Gods (Intermezzo)" is a great symphonic track that gives you some room to breathe after the epic onslaught of "Britannia: The 9th At Camulodonum".
I also read that they used both lyra and harp on this album, two instruments commonly used in ancient Rome, which gives the album a higher level of authenticity than previous albums.
Number two: The highest rating is for production, a 7. This is where I'm a bit disappointed. I've been listening with headphones on and the whole album sounds a bit muffled and especially the bass drum. The crisp production from previous albums is absent. The songs don't feel bombastic enough. "Britannia: The 9th At Camulodonum" is one of the best songs but you can hear a low but clear scrunching noise in the background throughout the song which is quite annoying. The only song where you actually can feel the pumping bass on your eardrums is "The Revolt Of Galba" which also is the best song of the album.

Overall it's an excellent album with a great concept. There where some truly awful emperors in Rome and the Romans in general have a really interesting history as well. Thankfully Ex Deo gives you the coolest history lessons so enjoy. I would give the album a 9 but the half bad production lowers it to an 8.
"When you are dead, you do not know you are dead. It's only painful for others. The same applies when you are stupid." - Ricky Gervais

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