Historical topics have been used as subject matter for metal bands for many years. Iron Maiden may be the most visible pioneer in this area, tackling topics such as ancient Egypt, various wars, etc. Nowadays, its spread all over to topics ranging from Norse mythology to almost every major world conflict and everything else one can think of. Itís hard to imagine that the topic of the Roman Empire had yet to be covered on any sort of large scale.
And it wasnít, up until a few years ago, that is.
Maurizio Iacono Ė of Kataklysm fame Ė came up with a grandiose concept for a side project of which encompasses the massive history of Rome. The first disc, Romulus, tackled a myriad of subjects from Gaius Julius Caesar, to the Battle of Actium, and many others. It served as a good way to introduce the idea of the band. That, and it ripped.
Three years later, however, Iaconoís project really took flight with their second album, Caligvla. It took the whole concept and gave it a massive theatrical twist, which Iacono reveals himself, was how he wanted this band to sound in the first place. Ex Deo is now definitely at the forefront of bands of this vein.
Blistering got the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Iacono before the Cleveland date of the Conquerors of the World tour, which also featured SepticFlesh, Krisiun, Melechesh, and Inquisition. All while fighting off voice issues Ė and still gracious enough to even do the interview despite this problem, which is a testament to how awesome of a dude Maurizio is Ė we had a chat about all things Ex Deo and what lies on the road ahead. Read on, loyal subjects.
Blistering.com: How have the first few dates treated you, other than your voice that is?
Maurizio Iacono: Rough! [laughs] Itís been good, but Iím struggling a bit with my voice. I was in Europe doing some shows with Kataklysm, and then I came back. And in 24 hours, I did three shows Ė two with Kataklysm and one with Ex Deo. Then we just kept going! Reaction-wise, itís been great. Ex Deo is definitely growing and itís a very cool experience. On the other hand, itís been hard physically.
Blistering.com: This band has a historical concept that hasnít been tackled like you guys have done it before. How did the theme of the Roman Empire come about?
Iacono: To be honest with you, I spent a lot of time in Europe. There are a couple of reasons why I did it. First reason is because of my heritage, you know, being Italian and growing up with that type of thing around me. My family educated me with it, and I grew up liking it and being very intrigued by it. With time, I realized it could be a great concept for metal. It was one of the most brutal empires that ever walked the earth! They invented crucifixion! To me, it was the perfect theme for it. I wasnít ready to do it before, either.
The other thing is that I like bands like Amon Amarth and the Viking metal and all that. Iím into it, and I think theyíre fabulous bands, but their heritage doesnít connect with me. I canít preach to Odin and all that if itís not me. Me with a Viking horn hat doesnít really fit me! [laughs] I wanted to do something for people who can relate to this, too. And I did it, and itís been embraced immediately. When I did Romulus a lot of people were skeptical because of the Kataklysm connection Ė is it going to sound like Kataklysm? How is this going to be? But itís a different project. Itís a different beast in itís own. Itís been doing very well for me.
Blistering.com: The major lyrical theme of the new album is Emperor Caligula, who is a very interesting historical subject. What prompted his reign being the focus of the second album?
Iacono: The one thing that I thought was cool is that everybody is familiar with the name Caligula. They know he was twisted and crazy, but they donít know really what he was about.
Blistering.com: I know people who only know the name from a Seinfeld reference.
Iacono: Wow! [laughs] The thing is, this guy only ruled for four years. He was Emperor for only four years. And in 2012, you still hear about him. He marked the world so much that you still know who he was. For a freak reason, when I decided to do this, studying on him one day, I looked at his birthday, and it was going to be 2000 years on the year that Iím releasing the record! So I delayed the record a little bit just to have it come out on the same date. I just think he was a fascinating guy. A lot of people think he was crazy, but I think it was more of his upbringing that was nuts. Having an upbringing thatís twisted reflects a lot on todayís society, when you have parents not taking care of their kids the right way. If you beat your kid, heís going to beat other people. He lived in a paranoia world. Youíre 20-something years old, and youíre given the whole world in your hands. You can do whatever you want at any time. He was like a kid in a candy joint!
Blistering.com: The feel to Caligvla is more grandiose than that of Romulus, which was a more direct approach. What prompted that sort of direction?
Iacono: I think with Romulus, we werenít matured enough, because it was so new. We knew what we wanted to do. We didnít know how it was going to go. Itís a brand new thing, and we still had some attachment to Kataklysm on there. We wanted to completely shy away from Kataklysm Ė itís a brand new project and theme. With Caligvla we found our niche. We experimented with Romulus. We know what we want to do; now weíre going to perfect it. I think this is just the beginning. Ideas weíve got coming for even another one is insane. Itís coming together like a big thing! I think weíre finding our direction quick. For some bands, it takes five or six albums. For us, itís kind of coming together pretty fast.