Over 2,000 years later Ancient Rome’s mighty battles with Carthage, known as the Punic Wars, gets a majestically brutal soundtrack courtesy of the Death Metal masters Ex Deo. The result is as epic as the battles themselves.

It has been a year since the news that death metal powerhouse Ex Deo would be doing a third album and it’s fair to say that expectation and anticipation have been heightened as the months have passed by. After exploring the birth of Rome on “Romulus” in 2009 and the one of it’s most controversial figures on “Caligvla” in 2012 this time the focus falls on the Punic Wars, a series of three brutal wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 BCE to 146 BCE.

Last time out saw the release of the sublime Caligvla, an album of such controlled ferocity that it took what the sublime debut album “Romulus” in 2009 had began and added another five legions worth of muscle, power and symphonic elegance to it.

At one stage it appeared that a third album was highly unlikely as the band went on hiatus in 2014. However, good things come to those who wait and the soldiers of Ex Deo will find much to rejoice in as General Iacono and his Centurions return with a triumph fit for Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, Gaius Julius Caesar and Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus combined.

The main protagonist in the Punic Wars was first Hamilcar Barca, and then perhaps more famously his son, Hannibal. For those not familiar with the tales of antiquity, Hannibal Barca was a Carthaginian commander brought up by his father, Hamilcar, to despise Rome and all it stood for. His father was the leading commander during the First Punic war and his son was to follow in his footsteps and continue to wage war on Rome. He famously crossed the Alps, previously not seen as a viable option of attack, with good reason as he lost nearly half his army on the crossing, as well as a handful of his prized war elephants. He is however often called the “father of strategy” and even Rome came to adopt elements of his military tactics for themselves.

What about the music then I hear you scream?!! Well, it’s always a good sign when after listening to the opening track you immediately go back and listen to it again before listening to the second track. So it is with the album opener “The Rise of Hannibal”.

With that kind of history the music better be pretty impressive to match up to the stories. Not a problem for Ex Deo as their ability to perfectly match mood and narrative musicality is beyond reproach. The drums sound like the catapults slamming into the walls of the enemy. This is a musical marker in the sand.

Guitarist Jean-Francois Dagenais, who provides the album menacing grooves along with the sublime lead guitar play of Stephane Barbe, once again takes his talents further than the six string and handles production duties, while the famed Jens Bogren helmed mixing desk in his native Sweden.

In many ways the format and style of the album is very similar to the two previous releases and “…Hannibal” confirms that. The symphonic and lush orchestration perfectly sets the ancient scene whilst the crushing and occasional sweeping death metal riffs cut through the grandeur and ceremony of Ancient Rome like a Gladius through the heart of a fallen slave in the Colosseum.

Iacono’s vocals portay the horrors of the battlefields of the western mediterranean with a mixture of aggression and call to arms shouts like “I am the general you cannot kill” on the brutal “Ad Victoriam (The Battle of Zama)”, which was the decisive battle of the war with Hannibal.

“Hispania (Siege of Saguntum)” packs a punch with the power of a battering ram. Taken from one of Hannibal’s many successes the track plays like a first-hand account of the savagery and rhythmic beating that the Saguntines took. The sound of a thousand shields banging in unison of the impending punishment they are about to inflict.

“Crossing of the Alps” echoes the struggles of Hannibal and his troops whilst the anthemic “The Spoils Of War” revels in it’s victorious grandeur. The album closes with the magnificent “The Roman” an intense, go for throat, battle-cry that rages, sweeps and spirals through the fallen with a reflective and emotive climax.

Three albums in and it is clear that, in the world of symphonic death metal, Ex Deo have no equal. The Immortal Wars, will be, when 2017 is said and done, the finest album of the year. Forget Megadeth, this is the true “Symphony of Destruction”.

Forza Roma, Forza Ex Deo.

Donnie’s Rating: 10/10

“The Immortal Wars”, is out on 24th February 2017 via Napalm Records. Click here to pre-order.

Ex Deo are:
Maurizio Iacono – vocals
Stéphane Barbe – lead guitar
Jean-Francois Dagenais – rhythm guitar
François Mongrain – bass guitar
Jonathan Leduc – keyboards
Oli Beaudoin – drums