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Although being a part of the useless splits line, at least the Hypocrisy/Immortal one actually featured two exceptional bands playing good, if not exceptional, songs from their newest releases. The same can’t really be said for Romulus / Cruise Ship Terror, the equally unoriginally titled split between Roman-themed death metal band Ex Deo and Pirate thrash band Swashbuckle… neither of the bands are horrible, but their music can’t really be called excellent either.
First off comes Ex Deo’s part, the title track from the Romulus album. Luckily, this song has a bit of atmosphere going for it. The usage of keyboards to create an epic ambience works pretty well, and the death metal itself is relatively solid. This is basically a Kataklysm side-project featuring 4 out of 5 Kataklysm members in a project designed to glorify the olden days of Ancient Rome. The intention is nice, but the delivery is a bit of a letdown, as this is just modern-sounding death metal with a lot of keyboards that tries to be extremely epic but only manages very partially. It’s not that any of the elements are particularly poor in themselves, or that the lyrics suck, but the songwriter just seems to try too hard. The effort is still pretty damn good, and the atmosphere is pretty much there, but I always get this feeling of dissatisfaction when listening to Romulus, or to most other tracks Ex Deo made for that matter. It just feels like they could’ve made something much more epic by trying less evidently hard to do it.
Of course, the intricate but over-the-top song structure of Ex Deo is still a relief when comparing them to the other side of the split. Swashbuckle play Cruise Ship Terror, apparently their second album’s single and a live favorite. However, the simplicity just kills me. This is retarded music. Sure it’s thrash metal and I’m relieved that I don’t have to deal with some –core crap, but come on! Thrash metal doesn’t have to be this generic… everything by this band screams for attention, and the result is disappointing because this is poorly-done party neo-thrash metal with a pirate gimmick. It would be passable if the band kept a low profile, but their music is insanely over-hyped, especially on the live circuit. These guys tour way too much and need to stop, because the same irritating sound of random drumming, occasionally good riffs and idiotic harsh vocals by big guy frontman Admiral Nobeard. At least these guys seem to like what they’re doing and aren’t completely obnoxious like most insanely overhyped bands. They’re just a bit misguided and annoying.
This split is completely useless and must be avoided. Perhaps buy Ex Deo’s album if you’re really interested in modern-sounding death metal with a solid historical Roman theme, but that’s pretty much the only lesson to be learned here.