rating icon 7.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. You Will Know Who I Am
02. Eagles
03. Bleed Me Out
04. Exiled
05. Get Up
06. Weaponized
07. 3656
08. Ghost Of My Father
09. Darkest Of Enemies
10. American Outcast
11. Keeping The Wolves At Bay

For the last three decades, KATAKLYSM have been one of death metal's hardy perennials: ever-present suppliers of brutal riffs, and one of the most prolific bands the genre has to offer. Vocalist Maurizio Iacono has been there from the start, and he was on particularly fine voice on 2020's "Unconquered", an album that most sensible people hailed as the best KATAKLYSM record in a decade or more. But creative people have little defense against new ideas, and INVICTUS is clearly an itch that Iacono has been wanting to scratch for some time. On the new project's debut, he eschews the murderous approach of his day job in favor of a much more straight-ahead and melodic strain of metal. At times, "Unstoppable" is incredibly catchy and almost touches toes with mainstream metalcore. At others, Iacono's lust for savagery is more than apparent, but the overwhelming impression given is of a veteran musician exploring his own songwriting capabilities and becoming duly electrified by the experience.

On the surface, "Unstoppable" owes plenty to big-budget melo-death and the scarred crunch of New Wave of American Heavy Metal bands like CHIMAIRA and HIMSA. Dig a little deeper and these songs have a dark charm all their own, not least because Iacono seems to be delving into more personal and intimate subject matter than ever before.

Opener "You Will Know Who I Am" establishes a prevailing mood with a crushing, mid-paced rush of noise, Iacono's commanding growl front and center, and insidious guitar melodies wafting up from the onslaught. "Eagles" snaps between bursts of belligerent, ultra-precise thrash and emotionally supercharged choruses; "Bleed Me Out" sounds not unlike KILLSWITCH ENGAGE but with all their optimism snuffed out. Likewise, "Get Up" is a righteous scream of defiance that feels more like a threat than a call-to-arms.

The highest points arrive when Iacono goes for broke and delivers razor-sharp anthems with unashamedly accessible hooks, albeit always with a furious undertow of rapacious riffing. "Weaponized" is insanely catchy, with subtle shades of ARCH ENEMY at their most restrained, and despite adhering to a fairly traditional template, packs such a jolting, saccharine punch that resistance is useless. "Ghost Of My Father" is equally great: a vicious sprint that gives way to another giant refrain, with Iacono's heartfelt delivery providing a mesmerizing focal point.

A passion project with huge potential, INVICTUS gives an intriguing glimpse into the creative mind of one of death metal's greatest unsung heroes. There are no wheels being reinvented here, but the sound of honest endeavor and great songwriting are unmistakable.

Author: Dom Lawson
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