Melodic death metal and symphonic black metal are not the same thing, but there are certainly strong parallels between the two -- both of them offer a more melodic and nuanced approach to extreme metal -- and they can easily be combined, which is what Ex Deo (a side project for Kataklysm frontman Maurizio Iacono) do on Romulus. This 2009 release is more death metal than black metal, but symphonic black metal is clearly part of Ex Deo's recipe on an album that is forceful and intense yet intricate and musical. Actually, the most extreme thing about Romulus is the singing; replace Iacono's extreme vocals (which include death metal's "Cookie Monster" growl as well as black metal's evil-sounding rasp) with clean vocals and you would essentially be left with an epic power metal album that incorporates thrash metal elements at times. That epic outlook is quite appropriate given Ex Deo's subject matter; Iacono's side project is obsessed with ancient Rome. Many melodic death metal and symphonic black metal bands have embraced Nordic Viking themes and celebrated the paganism of Scandinavia's pre-Christian centuries, but Ex Deo's lyrics focus on a part of ancient Europe that was much further to the south; Julius Caesar, in fact, is mentioned more than once. Musically, Ex Deo aren't groundbreaking; there have been plenty of melodic death metal/black metal bands with an epic outlook. But lyrically, this album's Roman themes are an interesting departure from all the Nordic and Viking themes that are so common in this type of metal. Anyone who expects Ex Deo to be a carbon copy of Kataklysm will be disappointed; emulating Kataklysm obviously wasn't what Iacono had in mind for his side project, which shows much promise on Romulus.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson