Review Summary: A perfect example of how repetition and stagnation can make a good band stumble.
Whether you enjoy the style of German metalcore act Heaven Shall Burn’s sound or not, it is safe to say that since their breakthrough album, 2004's Antigone
, Heaven Shall Burn have barely changed their sound at all. The dynamic but simple guitar harmonies and repeated chord progressions have gone through minimal change, only breaking away to something out of the ordinary on rare occasions. As the final chapter in the band’s Iconoclast trio, Invictus
is an album which is supposed to bring the saga to a sweeping close, wrapping up their story with an unforgettable bang. Well, not only does Invictus
fall far short of its aspired goal, it secures itself through hopelessly repetitive riffs and uninspired songwriting as the band’s most watered-down release to date.
Despite a small handful of harmonious, down-tempo bridges and a welcome return of the bass to the production values, the majority of Invictus
is rife with inconsistencies. The album is at its best during the very beginning and the very end, with a virtually impenetrable wall of filler securely fashioned in the middle. The sheer brutality and unrelenting heaviness in “Combat” is particularly effective at getting the beginning of the album into the swing of things after the opener “The Omen”, while the absolutely astounding closer “Given In Death” ranks as one of the best Heaven Shall Burn songs to date. However, in between are a mishmash of b-sides from Iconoclast
that neither impress nor entertain. The sheer lack of memorable riffs, the one-dimensional vocals and the intense feeling of deja vu are powerful setbacks which were bound to arise eventually considering Heaven Shall Burn’s stubborn determination to stick to their tried and true formula.
However, the influences of techno in the background of “Combat” and the incredibly out-of-character guitar solo in “Buried In Forgotten Grounds” help bring things back on an even playing field, as very minute but lasting hints of progression are scattered throughout the album. The string arrangements and the duet between Sabine Weniger and Marcus Bischoff during the final legitimate track “Given In Death” are immensely fresh and, combined with a desperate, almost epic atmosphere, serves as a perfect ending to the album. It may be too little, too late, though, because the clear focus on brutality drives the final stake into Invictus
, and the way the band ignored the subtle and simple melodies which made their previous efforts so enjoyable (despite a lingering threat of stagnation) is almost unforgivable. Many choruses attempt at a melodic, epic peak but never quite achieve it due to riffs which are too familiar to each other to be effective more than once.
Nothing here is inherently bad, it’s all just far too average and too similar (albeit less interesting) than the band’s previous three albums. Bischoff still relies constantly on his harsh, layered scream, only breaking to spew out some desperate-sounding German lyrics during “Of Forsaken Poets”. While Heaven Shall Burn have improved on a few aspects of their sound (this is honestly the first Heaven Shall Burn album where I can clearly hear the bass), the majority of the run-time is focused on songs which are easily tossed aside as inexcusable filler. With Invictus
closing the Iconoclast series, one can only hope that Heaven Shall Burn will take away the burned-out aspects of their sound and focus on the highlights of progression which are displayed here, because they are hugely promising. Until then, though, we are left with an album that, at its core, isn’t even close to what this band is capable of.