As big a fan as I am of Maurizio Iacono-fronted Kataklysm, something gave me a bad feeling about this side project of his. Maybe it was the way I had seen Ex Deo repeatedly described. I’m a proud Italian, but even I know the term “epic Roman Metal” is some kind of code for hardcore dude-on-dude ass annihilation. Or perhaps it was those ridiculous promo shots of Iacono in full breastplate and kilt gear. I’m a grown-ass man, Maury. I don’t fantasize about periods of history anymore. I think that stopped around the age of 9. My fantasies these days are much more practical (Audrey Hollander’s colon), morbid (microwaving that fucking Geico lizard), or downright sexy (a chick blowing two guys while having an abortion). Either way, I successfully dodged the debut album, but got stuck having to review this sophomore outing — a concept piece on the story of Caligula’s empire. It truly is a chore to sit through, but nowhere near as awful as I had feared. If you could somehow extract the pretentious, overbearing theatrical elements, you’d easily be able to salvage an EP’s worth of solid riff-hearty Melodeath, or conversely, a separate EP of respectable symphonic Gothic Metal. But you simply can’t escape the historical reenactment vibe. Iacono’s painfully understandable Spartan-warrior yell and Gladiator soundtrack-obsessed keyboards are always there to remind us it’s playtime. With a more consistently brutal voice —for instance, the one we know Maurizio is capable of— this would have been considerably more enjoyable. Nowhere is there greater evidence of this fact than on the powerful guest vocal spot from Spiros of Septic Flesh (“Pollice Verso” — by far the most listenable track). If Caligvla serves any purpose, it’s making me want to dig out those old copies of Mystic Places of Dawn and Esoptron for a long overdue spin. I should probably also listen to some Kataklysm while I’m at it.
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