Standing at the hill cliff
A flock of birds crown me
I am fathered by the god of war, I am the king of Rome
– Ex Deo ‘Romulus’
My title is random in mentioning GoT but really, where do you think that whole show gets it from? Right, from the Romans. Now, I’ve listened to a lot of epic metal in my day. From the blazing battle sounds of Amon Amarth to the proggy Nordic mayhem of Moonsorrow. The Celtic originals from Skyclad to the atmospheric and instrumentally superb Eluveitie. Now and then you come across bands that do something differently, like the whole German Mittelalter scene or ofcourse the wonderful Orphaned Land, bringing harmony in metal to the middle east. I also got to interview Melechesh once, a band playing Assyrian themed metal. So amazing… I almost forget my friends in Skyforger, with their Baltic pagan metal. I talked to their singer over a bottle of Jacknells.
What always has surprised me though, is how none of these bands take up the most epic, sensational culture the world has seen: The Romans. I got to see one band using them as a theme. I’ve just finished reading Suetonius’ history of the Roman emperors. The incestuous, murderous bunch in Westeros look like amateurs, compared to the Romans. Apart from that, they were a brutal warmachine that conquered most of the known world and managed to keep it together for ages. The sound of Ex Deo expresses that in majestic, bombastic and powerful death metal.
I can see the appeal of the likes of Vikings or national cultures, but why can no one be arsed to do something with Romans? Most of the series and films we have are totally metal, why no metal that’s totally Roman. Yes, there are some bands that are listed as playing with the same themes as Ex Deo, but those are the confused Fangs Of Molossus from Italy and Neron Kaiser from Russia. Both confused sounding bands and hardly doing justice to what they wish to tell. Maybe Sabaton will get around to it, but I will hardly like their version…
For me, Metal has always been much about storytelling and painting visions. Listen to some black metal from the likes of Emperor and Burzum and you’ll probably get that. Think of the fabulous concept albums bands like Turisas released once upon a time. The Roman emperor has all the material for that. Heck, you only need to pick to of the sauciest years of Caligula’s reign to fill a 3-LP record!
I’m going to see if I can talk to bands who do this sort of interesting stuff, like Ex Deo. So this is a tribute to the Canadians (for fucks sake Italy, Canadians are the only ones doing something metal with your heritage!), who only started doing this, because Maurizio Iacono got interested in it. The vocalist of Kataclysm is half Italian and that was all it took.
So what is a good new audiobook about them Romans? And bands, get in touch!