Invictus - Unstoppable

Maurizio Iacono is a pretty well known name by now in the death metal world. From melodic death metal Kataklysm to the more symphonic Ex Deo his trademark roar (and shriek) are pretty recognizable. Fans either love or hate him for his vocal style, but most his albums have been pretty consistent, for better or worse. Kataklysm has its edge that are guitar heavy and have strong vocal lines, but when Ex Deo came out people were probably expecting something a bit different, but it just sounded like a more symphonic version of Kataklysm with a Roman theme to it. Now it looks like Invictus is another Iacono project featuring mostly members of Ex Deo, letting the vocalist showcase another side of himself with more personal lyrics and more personal touch. Like David Draiman of Disturbed when he did Device though, whose side project was a ‘slightly more industrial Disturbed-’ and that as it- the question remains will Invictus stand on its own or just feel like an extension of Kataklysm with more of an anthemic sound or like Ex Deo minus the Roman themes?

The result is surprisingly good. The riffage and growls are unmistakably Kataklysm and the symphonic bits sprinkled around feel more Ex Deo, but there is a bit more going here that makes this more than just another melo death project. Right from ‘You Will Know Who I Am,’ “Unstoppable” comes across almost as a groove metal record, with touches of Machine Head here and there amongst the death metal elements. Iacono’s growls are there, discernable as always, but the big surprise is the clean vocals from Mutiny Within’s Chris Clancy, who adds a little metalcore/ Starkill element to the music. This alone adds a huge level of depth to the music and automatically separates it from anything that Iacono and crew have done so far. Fans aren’t going to get another Kataklysm or Ex Deo here, and perhaps that is for the best. The core of the music is indeed death metal still though, and one is going to hear traces of both bands, but as the album progresses there is definitely something more. ‘Eagles’ has a biting groove similar to Fear Factory vs. ‘Bleed Me Out’ has that symphonic metalcore touch to it with the more mid paced Kataklysm styled riffs from an album like “Of Ghosts And Gods.” The song can be heavy as hell and then suddenly quiet down with some piano bits. One thing is for sure- no high pitched screeches will be known such as on “Serenity in Fire.”

Other highlights from the album include the single ‘Get Up’ which is anthemic, powerful, and will appeal to fans of Kataklysm tracks like ‘At The Edge Of The World.’ Iacono and crew know how to create anthemic songs in both projects, with J-F Dagenais’ guitar work and Jeramie Kling on drums sounding perfectly in sync. ‘3656’ is a balance of melo death and metalcore, not as much groove in it as the other tracks but still strong. It would have been nice to have Clancy have his own song with the clean vocals, but he mostly serves as delivering the clean choruses on the tracks while Iacono bellows the verses; here though his cleans sound the best. For those looking for a fast track ‘Darkest Of Enemies’ brings the best ‘pit songs’ from Kataklysm’s more early days with a strong chorus to balance it out. And the closing ‘Keeping The Wolves At Bay’ has some excellent piano symphonics to back the melo death elements with some very biting lyrics to naysayers of any sort. The symphonic elements can seem a little random or forced at times, but are more distinct compared to the backing keyboards and horns when it comes to the Ex Deo project.

Overall, those who are looking for a Kataklysm styled project that isn’t Kataklysm will pretty much find that here. “Unstoppable” is a freight train that won’t slow down and is chock full of mid paced melo death and groove with a few new elements to boot. Some might argue the clean vocals soften or ‘mainstream’ the sound too much, much in a Killswitch Engage or Trivium kind of way, but they add a certain level of freshness that Ex Deo or Kataklysm have lacked since their inception. The groove elements are a nice add to the mix and help make the project more than just another melo death output. The lyrics are pretty much all about personal struggle, but very driving, very powerful, lacking the historical tact that Ex Deo has, but bringing back some awesome fist pumping Kataklysm energy to the music.

Listeners of either band should be very happy with Invictus and appreciative that is something to close out 2022 a little differently and will keep bringing listeners back rather than just passing it off as another Kataklysm or Ex Deo effort.

5 / 5 STARS

1. You Will Know Who I Am
2. Eagles
3. Bleed Me Out
4. Exiled
5. Get Up
6. Weaponized
7. 3656
8. Ghost Of My Father
9. Darkest Of Enemies
10. American Outcast
11. Keeping The Wolves At Bay