“Come on men, I don’t have all night! There still those left to be crucified!”
This band is often cited as ‘Symphonic Death Metal,’ and in fairness I can hear where they’re coming from, yet for my money I’ll describe them as everyone’s favourite controversial new genre, ‘Viking Metal.’ Epic keyboards? Check. Bombastic drumming? Yup. Blackened tremolo riffs? Uh huh. Mid ranged bellowing vocal lines? You betcha. Folk overtones? Of course. But what of the lyrics (and I’m ignoring the fact that naming a genre after it’s lyrical content is moronic)? Well if you know your history then the Romans were more awesome than the Vikings could ever hope to be. A bunch of oversized farmers – that never actually wore horned helmets into battle, that’s a myth – who were large in stature because farming a permafrost is hard work, adventuring to find land easier to cultivate, not to mention a place they can shit without getting ice on their asses; now compare that to the might of the Roman Empire.
In case geography isn’t your strong point, Rome isn’t a big city. Put into context, it’s as though Manhattan rose up to conquer the entire North American continent; conquering through force, strategy, and lets be honest, you don’t go conquering that much of the world unless you’re at least little bit badass. Epic enough? Well not quite, you see this album is all about the Emperor Caligula, who was probably the biggest dick to ever take the throne. Massacring his own people if they ever disagreed with him (and sometimes just for entertainment), he ruled through fear, and god help you if you were Christian. The Romans actually did have a history of raping, pillaging and torture. He once executed an entire family from the eldest down until only the 12 year old daughter remained, sobbing at what she had been forced to watch, before she too was raped (since virgins are exempt from execution) and then executed. He proclaimed himself a God and tortured to death anyone who refused to call him divine; tortured so brutally and for so long that the only reason their lives finally ended was because of the smell of rotting brains and flesh were making the local population vomit in the streets. For hundreds of years historians thought him possessed by the devil. His great-grandfather nailed Jesus to a cross less than 40 years ago for Christ’s sake.
With this for inspiration, it’s no wonder these guys have come up with an album that redefines ‘epic.’ Hell epic doesn’t even cover it; for a brief moment I envisaged myself standing in front of an oncoming bus and throwing it up in the air, simply because I could, and I wonder if the only reason I didn’t try was because I didn’t want to walk the journey home. Think Gerard Butler from ’300′ or the ‘God of War’ game with Kratos, the one man killing machine; bellowing his war cry against a giant opposition and striking a fear into your heart that gets it pounding, leaving you quaking in your boots at this behemoth about to demolish a path, powering forwards with their mid-paced lines, striding with an absolute strength directly towards you, and you’re beginning to get close.
No doubt these bellowing vocal lines, roaring with such a presence and power, does a lot to set the all important tone for the piece, channelling the historical figure through vocal lines and spoken passages and doing it all justice in a manner that few others would be capable of, but really it’s how the keyboards have been integrated that form the real selling point. Without them it’s not difficult to see how quickly the entire concept would fall, consistently used throughout but neither domineering nor forgotten; from the Wagnerian sweeping synth lines to the choral arrangements; the trumpets of war to the sounds of the horns signalling the triumphant return of the self-proclaimed “God of War;” that so much of the atmosphere rests on their shoulders is almost as impressive as the deftness in which he carries out this task.
In fact, given just how well the two of them succeed in setting the atmosphere, it’s a shame the rest of the instrumentation couldn’t live up to their end of the bargain; the drums are slow and methodical but largely forgettable, and the guitars never seem to do much more than set the basic pace and rhythm for the track to proceed. They both feel largely superfluous in the overarching composition; there but failing to really add something, and the guitars in particular felt as though they really did have an important job to do. Firing off on all cylinders, this album leaves you with no mistake as to the manner it’s heading, spending only the time absolutely necessary for the keys to whisk you off to this ancient land before embarking on their unrelenting sonic barrage. It starts out with such a powerful impact; with such grandiose and epic proportions, that they leave themselves nowhere else to go, and as such it all starts to dwindle as it feels more and more as though we’re simply retreading old ground; a problem compounded by the lack of memorable and distinct guitar riffs and lacklustre solos. The tracks fail to bring a sense of individualism to them, and herein lies the fatal flaw in an otherwise mesmerising album that will make you ashamed you used “epic” to describe anything else.
I Caligvla, Per Oculus Aquila, Teutoburg, Evocatio: The Temple of Castor & Pollux
About the Author
Position: Reviewer, Ranter, Reluctant Co-Editor
Location: London, England
Genre Preferences: Progressive, Avant-Garde, Experimental, Technical, Djent, Trad, Black
Favourite Artists: Adagio, Anthem, Baroness, Chthonic, Death Angel, Decadence, Fjoergyn, Gargoyle (Jpn), Haken, Kalevala, Leprous, Lucifugum, Pin-Up Went Down, Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, Project Hate MCMXCIX, Redemption, Sigh, Sikth, Tesseract, Thy Catafalque, Von Hertzen Brothers, Zigoku Quartet
Having held an internet presence using this alias for over a decade now, odds are if you've come across the name in the past it was myself. As for my musical history I suppose it's appropriate to say I arrived on my obsession backwards, for years holding little more than disdain and derision for a genre so seemingly obsessed with pointless brutality over composition; the likes of Deftones, Korn and Slipknot that serves as an introduction for so many flooding my musical palette, deterring my interests and yielding my only interpretation of what the genre involved. Ironically, it was Cannibal Corpse's “Vile” that first corrected me; played at high volume at a youth club by an elder metal fan angrily pushing the bleeding ears of the Green Day fans away from the stereo. I left that day clutching borrowed copies of Children of Bodom's “Hatebreeder,” the aforementioned Cannibal Corpse album, Metallica's “Cunning Stunts” on VHS and a whole new musical interest.
Arriving at a number of forums, I soaked up knowledge like a sponge, progressing through the stages of opinionated idiot to an arrogant elitist on a crusade before finally calming down, chronicling the last four years of my journey of discovery with self-published reviews. In the decade since my initial discovery, my tastes have mellowed and expanded to encompass most of the metal genre and beyond, constantly in search of something new and exciting, always seeking to expand my own musical knowledge. Black Metal with a Didgeridoo? Death Metal Disco? Trance Metal? Sign me up. I also have a strange obsession regarding the music of Asia, but I can't explain that one.
I have long since devoted far too much of my time writing - much to the amusement of my family who note the science-obsessed child now does far more writing than the English Lit. student - and have been self-publishing reviews since 2008; archives of music reviews can be found here and Film can be found here, though since joining Axis both have largely become defunct. I'm a keen globetrotter and, too, document my travels here, on an old blog originally designed to publish a novel that was abandoned due to time constraints.