Unironic Historical Metal: Ex Deo @ Sonar

By Martin Silbiger
Wednesday November 3, 2010

pinnastorm

Last night I am pretty sure I saw one of the lamest, geekiest metal bands in the world.

When setting up the stage, they played music that sounded like it was from Caligula or Spartacus or something. They put up a couple Roman decorations and flags with “SPQR” written on them. My friend Brian asks, “is this some Nazi thing?” ,No, Brian. SPQR is a Latin abbreviation referring to the Roman empire.

The band EX DEO, from Montreal, takes the stage in gladiator costume. Plastic chest-plates emblazoned with the number XIII hide their middle-aged beer-bellies. It takes about 5 seconds for me to realize this band lacks any sense of irony. I am about to experience a
“historical” metal show. (For those of you keeping track at home, this one wasn’t included in our Pocket Guide to Metal Subgenres).

Singer: “Back in 58 BC...[something something about the Roman spirit]... we’re here to bring you history...because those who know the past...WILL KNOW THE FUTURE!!”
My friend Brian: “What is this, Schoolhouse Rock?”
Me: “Can’t wait for the Mt. Vesuvius song, y’all.”

Anyway, they played what I would normally call textbook death metal… because it was mostly by-the-books, nothing innovative and nothing that wasn’t done already in the 90s. But “textbook” takes on a double meaning because I think I was supposed to learn some history as well.

I didn’t. Later, my friends and I discussed the implications of this Rome worship. Like, what does it mean if you’re really into the Roman empire? Do you love and support colonialism? Imperialism? Do you know that the Roman empire fell, or is that a taboo subject? Also, what do you think of Sparta, which was arguably WAY MORE METAL? What’s your opinion of the movie 300?

Needless to say, I did not purchase their debut album, Romulus.

Thankfully I was not there for EX DEO, but for the legendary metal group NILE. Their songs are about Egypt, actually, so this is arguably just as nerdy, but the guys don’t make a big deal out of it and were just there to have a good time. They cracked jokes throughout and seemed genuinely happy to spend their night hanging with a few dozen sweaty dudes in a tiny club in Baltimore. They didn’t wear stupid costumes, didn’t teach us anything, just played some kickass metal. They also played my favorite song, “Papyrus”*!

*”Papyrus Containing the Spell to Preserve Its Possessor Against Attacks from He Who Is in the Water.” (It’s a spell from the book of the dead, DUH.)


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