Album Review: Heaven Shall Burn - "Invictus"

Sometimes, the only recourse as a metal band is to throw absolutely everything into a pot and see how much of it coalesces. At least, that seems to be the driving idea behind Heaven Shall Burn’s “Invictus.” In its base roots, the album seems like it has a metal skeleton not altogether different from any number of anonymous metal albums. Yet, the album both benefits and suffers from the disease of more. More guitar, more distortion, more percussion, more sheer noise.

If you absolutely need metal by the pound, this is a fine place to get it. “Invictus” never lets off the gas. “The Omen” is a great way to begin the non-stop aggression, particular as it reaches the end, and the warped speed riffs give way to a chugging six-stringed assault. Not to be outdone, Heaven Shall Burn paired “The Omen” with “Combat,” which is the same musical idea dressed up in a different progression. Rounding out the first block of speaker-busting throttled-up metal is “I Was, I am, I Shall Be,” which takes the same formula and adds a certain dramatic flair to the mix.

You might notice that I’ve so far said that the first three cuts are the same theme shrouded in different clothing. That’s true, and it’s one of the album’s shortcomings. “Invictus” reminds me of last year’s “Attitude” by Susperia, or Soilwork’s “Chainheart Machine.” The barrel has been sawed so short that accuracy has been willingly sacrificed for widespread damage. While “Invictus” reigns supreme in terms of sheer volume of sound and unbridled ferocity, it lacks in poignant substance.

That’s why the best song on the album is right in the middle. “The Lie You Bleed For” does more than just throw potpourri at the listener and hope you’ll like the mash-up. The song uses soft sections, haunting keyboards, and dramatic lines not in concert but in succession, making the listener appreciate each part as it plays by. It’s an over-the-top song on an over-the-top album, but is fashioned in a different sense.

Following that, the album picks up a little steam, as it turns to “Return to Sanity,” and “Against Bridge Burners.” The former is perhaps the most down-beat driven and accessible song that “Invictus” has to offer, while the later is influenced by classic heavy metal throwdowns.

If you absolutely need an extreme metal fix, there is certainly more good than bad on “Invictus.” It’s a solid effort that likely won’t satisfy you forever, but won’t leave you with buyer’s remorse. If you’re looking for something with the artistic construction and versatility of Arch Enemy, you might be better off renting before you buy.

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