METAL DE FACTO shook up the Finnish metal scene with the promise of making power metal great again. The Finnish band consists out of some familiar faces from the scene, but more importantly, together they have created their debut theme album “Imperium Romanum”, out on 22 November 2019 through Rockshots Records.
If you haven’t read about this band yet in our previous articles, then introductions are in order. METAL DE FACTO, for the past year or so, has been spreading the power metal gospel. With their motto “Make Power Metal Great Again”, the band has taken upon the challenge to bring back the traditional heavy metal elements in power metal, while writing songs about different historical cultures, the first one being Ancient Rome. In this review, we’ll focus on both the stories and ideas behind the songs and the music written to them.
Note: In this review, I’ll focus both on the stories behind the songs, and the songs. The information I gathered about the songs is based on my own interpretations, already acquired knowledge, and online sources.
Rome’s history is a vast web of mythologies, legends, stories from the battlefield and much more, selecting ten tracks to represent the history of this culture the best way possible, couldn’t have been an easy task. The question remains on how to best start an album about Rome. Apart from being a kick-ass heavy metal song, “The Conqueror” thematically tells about the mythology surrounding the founding of Rome by Romulus. In Roman mythology, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus were the sons of Rhea Silva and Mars (God of War). The twins were abandoned on the bank of the river Tiber and eventually raised by a she-wolf. Years, and many other stories later, the twins who were natural-born leaders, decided to found a city of their own on the place they were found. The brothers had a fight about who should rule the city, which eventually led to Romulus murdering Remus, after which the city of Rome was founded and named after Romulus on the Palatine hill. Instead of re-telling the legend, the band chose to play around with the idea of what went through Romulus‘ mind after he killed his brother Remus. Would the mighty Rome have been greater if they would have been ruling it together? “The Conqueror” is a return to the roots of what once was power metal and is a guitar-driven song, with killer Iron Maidenesque riffs, spectacular solos, and powerful vocals.
Consisting of large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean sea in Europe, North Africa, and West Asia, the Roman Empire needed to be defended by brave men. The story of those defending the territories of the Roman Empire, the foremost fighting force of Rome, is told in “Legionnaires’ Oath”. With its twin guitars, compelling solos, and much more, this song is a winner. The song keeps up the fast pace of the opening track, at the same time it kind of has the feeling of marching the streets like a soldier. Above all “Legionnaires’ Oath” has a killer chorus that definitely is worthy of a singalong live. Imagine singing “The Empire Shall Not Fall” with vocalist Mikael Salo and 60,000 other legionnaires at a festival in the dark with fists pumping in the air.
If you think all of these songs are about war, battle, and murder, you are incorrect. “Naturalis Historia” is thematically a bit of a lighter song. It tells the story of Pliny The Elder whose Encylopedia “Naturalis Historia” tried to shed light on Planet Earth or the natural world as it was known to him. The book was the last one Pliny ever published, and the only work that is known to have survived. He had not made a final revision at the time of his death during the eruption of the Vesuvius. The song also feels a little bit more light than the others, but still is really fast, and furious. It starts off with pounding drums and a groovy bass melody, which then continues in a heavy riff. So far, these songs have pretty much been in the same line and consistency.
“Inferno” breaks with the fast pace of the album, and has keyboards that take a more central role in the song, reminding of bands like TURMION KÄTILÖT. This is interrupted by again a groovy bass line, which defines the further pace of the song. Instrumentally, the song is quite minimal and focuses mostly on the vocals and keyboards. Thematically, the song tells the story of the Great Fire Of Rome. A fire, which destroyed two-thirds of Rome, and allegedly was started by Emperor Nero. Nero, however, blamed the inferno on the Christians, which initiated the empire’s first persecution against the Christians.
If these songs were too heavy and dark for you, then “Bacchanalia” will definitely lighten up your mood. Inspired by baroque, keyboard player Benji Connelly hammers on his keyboard on the way to happiness and shows his skills off in this song. The Bacchanalia were Roman festivals of Bacchus, the Greco-Roman god of wine, freedom, fertility, intoxication, and ecstasy. As exuberant, and decadent these festivities were claimed to be, “Bacchanalia” sounds like. The song is an excellent illustration of how METAL DE FACTO has puzzled these songs and stories to match exactly as they are supposed to be told.
“… What a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”Marcus Aurelius – “Meditations”
The only ballad to be found on “Imperium Romanum” starts off with the above-mentioned quote from Marcus Aurelius, coming from his book “Meditations”. Marcus Aurelius is best known as the last of the Five Good Emperors of Rome, and as the author for his philosophical work “Meditations”. The Stoic Emperor wrote the 12 books of “Meditations” as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement, which is something that is very present in “Echoes In Eternity”. The song urges to always remember that life is short and reminds me of something else that Marcus Aurelius said in the same book: “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” “Echoes In Eternity” is not another one of those cheesy ballads. The song has a strong Simon & Garfunkel-vibe, with folky keyboard melodies that lift the song to a higher level, accompanied by beautiful lyrics, which somehow make it a very motivational song.
After slowing down the album extensively, METAL DE FACTO picks up the pace with “Colosseum”, the only instrumental track on the album, with Yngwie Malmsteen-like guitar wizardry, and great dialogue between all the instruments, and even a bass solo. This truly could be the soundtrack to tell the story of the monument, where events such as bestiarii fighting wild animals, gladiator fights and much more were held to amuse people.
The album goes next to my two favorite tracks of the album. First in line is “Ides Of March”, telling the story of the brutal assassination of the Roman dictator Caesar. Caesar was due to appear at a session of the Senate. Several Senators had conspired to assassinate Caesar. Around 60 men allegedly participated in the assassination. He was stabbed 23 times. “Ides Of March” is a ferocious song, containing a lot of dramatic lyrics. The anger, I presume comes from the general disapproval of opposing the Senate’s monopoly. Too powerful, too ambitious, and eventually destabilizing Roman politics, with all these emotions in mind, Caesar’s murder was captured brilliantly in this song and closed off with his famous quote: “Let The Die Be Cast!” (“Alea iacta est!”). The best part of “Ides Of March” is probably the vocal delivery of Mikael Salo, who especially shines on this track.
“The Ascending of Jupiter” is a song that has been stuck in my head for what must seem like an eternity. Strangely, I don’t mind. Its chorus is so damn catchy and makes you sing along right away. The story of the songs leads us back to the cover art of the album, where an eagle is holding onto thunderbolts as if his life depends on it. This commonly used emblem, which eventually became one of the Roman Army’s symbols, symbolizes the God of Thunder and king of the Gods, Jupiter. The Ides of every month were sacred to Jupiter as on that day heavenly light shone day and night due to the full moon. On the Ides, sacrifices were made to please Jupiter and keep Rome safe. The song, in my opinion, represents more the relationship between the Roman population and Jupiter. In general, “The Ascending of Jupiter”, is a song that is faster than greased lightning and will surely crack open skies all around the universe. The song opens up with a racing guitar riff before it shifts into a heavy-ass verse that leans more in the direction of NBOBHM and speed metal, but it’s the chorus that totally convinces me of its godliness due to its super catchy chorus, captivating lyrics and the way it so smoothly transitions into the same riff that kicked off the song. Fit for a king.
The album ends with “Germanicus”, a song devoted to the most prominent of generals during the Roman Empire, who was known for his campaigns in Germania. He is pictured as a competent leader able to handle the masses in the song. Possibly the most epic line and passage in the whole album is an epic voice-over by bass player Sami Hinkka “We have all sworn to obey the emperor’s commands. We shall never desert and we shall not seek to avoid death, but always be ready to sacrifice our lives for the Roman Empire”. Aggressive riffs, a lot of guitar solos and the atmospheric outro with spoken word delivered by Maurizio Iacono (KATAKLYSM) make this song a stand-out closing track that lingers for a while after its played.
Aside from the many fast and furious riffs and amazing guitar solos, this album is excellent in delivering stories. “Imperium Romanum” is the embodiment of Ancient Rome translated into heavy metal music. Voice-overs and the use of quotes by ancient writers make the album feel more like a compact story. Vocalist Mikael Salo might be in a good amount of other bands, but on some of these tracks he gets to truly show his real skill set as a vocalist, such as in songs like “Ides Of March“. The overall pounding and tight drums offer a variety of drum patterns that always sound refreshing, provide an escape from the nowadays disco beat-oriented power metal, and give an overall tight foundation to the structure of the songs. While keyboards are present in METAL DE FACTO, they are not overpowering the music as in many power metal bands nowadays. Benji Connelly however often takes a central role and delivers great keyboard solos. In songs like “Inferno” and “Colosseum”, Sami Hinkka shows off his dexterity when it comes to playing bass, ensuring the album has both groovy, melodic and fast bass lines.
With organic and edgy production, the heavily guitar-oriented tracks come across as nostalgic, but at the same time manage to keep a modern identity. METAL DE FACTO has managed to give us one of the best power metal releases of the year, nay decade! So, put on your finest tunic or your most precious toga, raise a cup of the tastiest wine to Jupiter, listen to his token of appreciation in the form of “Imperium Romanum” and awaken your inner true Roman legionnaire!
- The Conqueror
- Legionnaires’ Oath
- Naturalis Historia
- Echoes In Eternity
- Ides of March
- The Ascending of Jupiter
- Germanicus ft. Maurizio Iacono
Vocals: Mikael Salo
Guitars: Esa Orjatsalo
Guitars: Mikko Salovaara
Bass: Sami Hinkka
Keyboards: Benji Connelly
Drums: Atte Marttinen
Sami Hinkka’s solo project ssSHhh released industrial metal homage to Christmas classic “Jingle Bells.”