Ade – Spartacus

Founded in 2007 by lead guitarist Messor, Ade is an Italian death metal band whose music is primarily focused on their homeland’s rich Greek and Roman history. The band recorded their debut, Prooemivm Sangvine, in 2008, but didn’t actually get a worldwide release until two years later via Casket Music. After enduring the killing road for a few years, sharing the stage with the likes of Sinister and Gama Bomb, Ade went back in the studio to record their now recently released follow-up, Spartacus. The band self describes their album as “epic fury” and frankly, I can’t find any flaw in that statement. This is the music Kratos listens too when he is leading the Titans against the Olympian oligarchy, not Blood & Metal. Technically speaking, Spartacus is somewhat of a concept album that was named after the Thracian gladiator who helped lead an uprising against the Roman Republic during the Third Servile War. The events that lead up to and follow the rebellion provide the lyrical backdrop for the entire album.

If you aren’t already familiar with these Italians, Ade’s claim to fame is that they meld traditional ancient Roman instrumentation with modern day technical death. If this metal blueprint sounds familiar to you, it should, since Nile has been doing this for over a decade (substitute Egyptian for Roman) and is without a doubt the gold standard.  The astute reader will note that despite their geographical proximity and affinity for death, Ade isn’t another Fleshgod Apocalypse copycat either. In fact, I believe it is a grave mistake to lump these two together, as Fleshgod is an order of magnitude more technical than these Spartans who prefer to stay within the confines of more palatable song structures.

Of course the reason why you spin this CD is for the ancient Greek/Roman instrumentation that lays at this record’s core. Ade tastefully incorporates these elements both as pacing devices that break up the brutality as well as rhythmic spice for some added flare. For example, the introductory skirmishes of “Betrayer from Thrace” and “Sanguine Pluit in Arena” both start off in oud (think ancient Greek banjo) and flute before bridging into pure death. The instrumentation here gives both songs an immediate innate charm that instantly grabs your attention and lures you in. But on “Crixius Flags of Dishonor,” the ancient Greek ensemble provides more of an aural clearing before diving back into the aggressive, Behemoth style riffing of the rest of the song. Ade is very careful to not over use these elements to the point that they wear out their welcome or feel too gimmicky, keeping their eyes on the death metal prize at all times.

But make no mistake about it, the guitar work on this album is fantastic too. The album apexes on the track “Mars’s Unpredictable Favour,” which is literally baptized in sword clatter and battle cries. The main riff introduced a few seconds later is massive, and gets your heart racing instantly. The song then slows down about a minute in for a brief Latin monolog that segues into some haunting vocals before coming full circle again. The rest of album follows the same pattern, with Messor and Fabio leading the invasion with a nice balance of technical fireworks and straight on catchy death riffs that are just flat out neck snapping fun.

What’s also fascinating about Spartacus is not only does it pay a homage to Behemoth in sound, but also in production. Though this should come to you as no surprise since the album was mixed and mastered by Polish engineer Sławek Wiesławski of Hertz Recording Studio, who is currently on assignment recording the new Behemoth record due out early next year. In fact, Hertz is probably one of, if not the premier extreme metal recording studio in all of Poland. But the fact is, release after release, this studio loves to compress its client’s music to smithereens. I mean Spartacus is about as crushed as you can possibly make the record without actually clipping it (-0.12 peak all the way through). The mix isn’t that balanced, with guitars clearly the bread winners out of the pack. Caligvla’s bass is pretty much non-existent minus the last song where it suddenly comes out of no where before being buried alive again. If you are worried about the hats spilling over, good luck with that, since I have a hard time just hearing them. Honestly, despite my affinity for this record, its really a fatiguing listen and certainly never comes close to the Platonic production ideal. Yet another Greek tragedy chalked up to the Loudness War. There currently is no plans for a vinyl release, but I have talked with Blast Head Records and they have been very receptive about considering one.

All in all, there is very little to find fault here other than the brickwall production and somewhat formulaic construction. Ade’s Spartacus is a marvelous technical death metal ride that really delivers on its concept in spades. Head over to Blast Head Records’ Bandcamp page now to stream the record in its entirely. You can not go wrong. And if you think this album deserves some vinyl love, don’t be shy and email Blast Head directly telling them so!

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