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Hesperia > Caesar [Roma Vol.I] > Reviews > Sean16
Hesperia - Caesar [Roma Vol.I]

Metallum Romanum IX - Megalometal - 90%

Sean16, January 23rd, 2021

Hesperia is a band I was at first reluctant to add to this Roman metal series. However, it soon appeared like its inclusion was unavoidable. Founded in 1997, it would indeed be one of the first, if not the first metal act to rely principally on ancient Roman imagery, pre-dating even Centvrion, from whom the title of this review was shamelessly taken. Furthermore, being still active today with six full-length albums to boast, it is undoubtedly the most productive and enduring. What could be wrong, then?

Well... First, while one-man bands aren’t uncommon, especially in black metal, this man’s ego must be second only to Caesar’s. Hesperus / Hesperia, the fusion between the artist and his art is complete here. Not only does he compose everything, sing and play all the instruments, he must also write intricate songtitles and lyrics regularly referring to his own persona, act omnipresent in his videos and pose on each of his album covers, either subduing a couple of female sex slaves or proudly waving the Italian flag. That leads to the second point – Hesperia is an openly nationalistic band, and, if at least the present work does not venture too far into questionable lyrics, Hesperus made statements unpleasantly reeking of, to put it bluntly, fascism, all throughout his lengthy career. It has to be kept in mind for anyone attempting to fully understand this bizarre monster published as Caesar – Roma vol. I.

Monster – from the Latin monstrum, wonder you can only show, not describe. Please excuse the pedantry, but it was indispensable to set you in the right mood. For Hesperus wouldn’t record mere music, mind you. Caesar is a real Gesamkunstwerk. First part of a self-proclaimed cinematic rock opera, of which the second part is still waiting to be released, it cannot be dissociated from the series of related videos, one per track, uploaded roughly one every six months on the band’s official youtube channel. At the time this review was written, the last three still had to be revealed to the world. Watching some, if not all of these videos is mandatory for grasping the true essence of the piece. Pictures from Roman statues and monuments, 19th century pompier paintings, excerpts from peplum movies, half-naked bimbos, all combined in a single package. Lots of eagles and flames. Texts mixing the actual songs’ lyrics with history lessons dispensed by no other than Hesperus. Crowning it all, the Man himself. Hesperus poses in the shadows. Hesperus sings. Hesperus plays the folk instruments. Hesperus’s expert fingers wank his favorite guitar. Hesperus is Caesar. Hesperus is God.

And God shall create. Let there be bombastic Hollywoodian movies scores. Let there be triumphal war drums. Let there be fiddles, Celtic harps and chanting pagan priests (De Bello Gallico), let there be mid-eastern melodies delivered with the subtlety of a full-force synthetic orchestra (Ægyptus (Tema di Cleopatra)). Each track has to sound viscerally different from the other, so let Britannia Capta Erit – Alea Iacta Est be a chaotic instrumental accumulating time signature changes, weird overdubs (didn’t we hear a Hammond organ there?) and sounds captured at the Rubicon river, let Roma start as a light-weight march, bluesy and groovy, before turning into what will be the only genuine black metal bit to be found on the album, let Divini Praesagii (Romanorvm Deorvm) bloom as a majestic power ballad. And, as after all it’s supposed to be a metal album, let there be guitars as well. Never mind if, to us poor mortals, Hesperus’s skills on the instrument don’t sound all that impressive, his picking clumsy, his solos lacking of fluidity. Just receive, and pray.

Hesperus shall sing. Not like everyone, again. First, he shall sing in the only two languages ever worth using, that is, modern Italian mostly, sometimes Latin – with the archaic pronunciation, please. Then, while he most often alternates between mid-ranged harsh vocals and melodic baritone cleans, making sure his commitment and self-confidence transpire behind every word, his performance also includes ominous whispers, bluesy crooning (Roma), rhythmically speaking in an affected creepy tone (the verses of Caesar (Tema di Cesare)), or ethereal clean chanting (later in this same song). After having thus proven no singing style could possibly stand beyond his reach, he might deign sharing scraps of his glory with occasional guest vocalists. One for the backing black metal shrieks at the end of Roma, two more for the grandiloquent Italian opera duet between Caesar (a tenor) and Cleopatra (a soprano). Genius and ridicule collide in a blaze. Take that deep in your throat, Therion. That’s when you realize in awe that the whole stuff sounds a thousand times more inspired than Beloved Antichrist.

Hesperus shall borrow only from the greatest. At loss for words to describe the tragedy of the Ides of March, he pulls up a symphonic metal cover of the instrumental Iron Maiden piece of the same name. Not sure how Eddie would feel about that. Not sure how Shakespeare’s shadow would feel, either, hearing Brutus’s monologue histrionically declaimed as an intro to Romana Conspiratio (Tema di Bruto), translated into Italian of course. Hesperus transcends them all.

Most importantly, Hesperus shall not bother with petty concerns like definite musical genres. It should be clear by now that this opus has little to do with black metal. The wailing, high-end distorted sound of the guitars is indeed reminiscent of that style, but the riffs themselves are much more rooted in traditional heavy metal – the aforementioned Iron Maiden cover was definitely not innocent (and should we add the opener Supremus Dux features uncanny reminiscences of Moonchild? Ah...). Combine some melodeath, folk influences, full-blown symphonic metal... then serve the whole pudding with a both clear and organic production, supported by pounding, metallic bass guitar and dry-sounding, energetic-but-sober drums. Amen.

Come the end of the day, how could anyone even pretend to rate that? Monument of kitsch, all dedicated to the glory of its maker and the land he proudly stands for, megalomaniac, bloated, at the same time fueled by authentic inspiration and every inch thriving with original musical findings, Caesar – Roma vol. I defies all classification. Should the incongruous videos be taken into account as well, knowing they’re meant to be an integral part of the experience, though they were not included in the original recording? And what about the rampant ideology, could it be really ignored? Alright, I once awarded a 90 to Peste Noire, a band objectively much more disturbing. So, for the sake of immoderation...

Highlights: You either love it, or hate it as a whole. No half-assed appreciations with Hesperus Almighty.