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Exotic death metal just got a new face! - 90%

Kultic, February 21st, 2014

When one thinks of "exotic" or "ancient" metal, the first bands that come to mind are Nile, Melechesh, and Behemoth. The distinctive "Middle Eastern" sound these bands incorporate into their metal styles has become their trademark. In fact, due to the monopoly these big bands have on the exotic sound, new bands who also use the same oriental scales and modes are labeled as "Nile clones" or a "Behemoth cover band with different lyrics." I know that's what I was thinking when I first clicked on the lyric video for "Sangvine Plvit in Arena" by Ade. To quote Thorin Oakenshield, "I have never been so wrong in my life!"

Formed in 2007 in Italy, Ade set out on a mission to create fantastically technical, but devastatingly brutal death metal influenced heavily by Roman history and traditional music. Their first attempt, Prooemivm Sangvine, failed to reach a large audience, despite a rather inventive, albeit unrefined, approach to their music. That didn't dampen Ade's spirits, however, as they came back in 2013 with the album Spartacus-- a release fueled by a near perfect mixture of technicality, headbangability, and ambience. The album is centered around the historical slave revolt of Spartacus. Without any further ado, let's get into the meat of the album.

The first track, "Betrayer from Thrace," begins with a very short ambient section, quickly getting interrupted by a furious tornado of distorted guitars and blast beats. Our first introduction to the vocals is very "matter-of-fact" and unshowy: a simple, but effective, growl that we will hear for the rest of the album. We are also introduced the signature Ade sound. This band works with the same Byzantine scale as bands like Nile and Behemoth, yet manages to sound completely different and distinctly Roman. Even if you had no idea who the artist was or what the lyrics were, the first thought that would spring into your head while listening to this music is that it sounds Roman.

The first three songs are impressive. "Betrayer from Thrace" introduces us to the band by showcasing how brutal and technical they can be. Sangvine Plvit in Arena, the next track, let's us explore another aspect of their sound by attempting to be as "big" and majestic as possible. It's in this track that the Ade sound gets further developed. The last in this trinity is "The Endless Runaway," which has a lengthy ambient section at the beginning and evolves into a mysterious, less brutal, but more atmospheric feel to it. If you want to find out what Ade is all about, you should listen to these first three songs at least. However, much like the EQ for scooped guitars, the middle tracks of the album "dip down." Although the songs "Crixius Flags of Dishonor, Duelling the Shadow of Spartacus, Mars's Unpredictable Favour, and Decimate the Cowards" are certainly not bad, they each lack a distinctive feel that the first and last three songs manage to convey. You may find yourself less engaged during this middle portion, in contrast with your total immersion in the music at both ends of the release. "Six Thousands Crosses" comes to save the day however, with its very impressive mix of ambience, emotion, and technicality. The last two songs "Divinitus Victor" and "...For Everything to be the Same" constitute a bombastic finish to this album. While "Divinitus Victor" maintains a level of ambience, the last track strips off everything but brutality. It's very possible that "...For Everything to be the Same" is the wildest, most ferocious song I have ever heard. Clever panning tricks get your adrenaline racing and your instincts going wild. This is perhaps the epitome of a moshing song.

All in all, there are not many problems with this album. However, a few do stand out. The first, and most obvious, is the lack of variety in the vocals. Although Flavio's growl is good, it's not enough to carry the whole album. Listening to the same growling tone go on for the whole 42 minutes can get monotonous. Secondly, no matter how I EQ'd my phone, the music was very muddy when listened to through earbuds. This was a great dissapointment, as I usually listen to albums while working out at the gym, and I could hardly hear anything that was going on because it was so muddy.

This album stands out in many ways, one of the most impressive to me as a guitarist being Fabio and Messor's guitar work. Their tones are both some of the best I've heard. But, more importantly, their playing is utterly flawless and phenomenal. You just have to shake your head at some of the solos they were able to pull off. Second is the drumming. Although it is unclear to me whether Kollias is playing the whole album or simply for a few tracks, the skin-work was precise, inventive, and very fitting with the rest of the instruments. Finally, the songwriting. To put it simply, my mouth dropped to the floor the first time I heard Ade. Every note, every riff, and every song was distinct from anything else I have ever heard in my life. It amazes me how someone can create a song that sounds so "Roman" without going into cliched brass interludes and choirs (like Nile is guilty of).

Overall, Ade's Spartacus is a triumph. Although it suffers from some minor issues, the album in its whole is phenomenal. From the guitar work, to the songwriting, to the concept, everything about this album screams "magnificent." It gets a 90, or A-. Although it may not become a death metal classic, it sure will become an Ade classic and be listened to by fans for years to come.