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Having sought out medical attention after my mind was shattered by the sheer overload of excellence which I was bombarded with from reviewing the Marriage albums, I’m back and grounded again. Let’s push on with the rest of the Virgin Steele discography! Invictus was the eighth full-length from DeFeis and the gang, and was one of the last albums I checked out from Virgin Steele on my journey through their music.
Invictus is technically the third instalment in the Marriage cycle of the Virgin Steele discography, although I see it more as a bridge into their later direction. In particular, I think this work segues well into the House Of Atreus albums, and I’d even go as far as to say that I feel there are elements which aren’t too far away from Visions Of Eden or even The Black Light Bacchanalia. I also think that Invictus is the first Virgin Steele album which really feels at home with what was going on with the band’s European power metal contemporaries, and I certainly believe it to be an influence, particularly on some of the more epic and progressive acts. Frank “The Krakan” Gilchriest’s drum performance in particular ties this in, as I think this is the first time they really utilized a lot of double kicking.
I’d definitely say Invictus is the heaviest album amongst Virgin Steele’s catalog. Edward Pursino really honed in the power of the riff, and his skills are displayed to phenomenal effect in thumping numbers such as “Dust From The Burning”, the anthemic “Mind, Body, Spirit” and my personal favorite, “Through Blood And Fire”. David DeFeis also channels his aggressive range more prominently here, it’s certainly what I’d class as one of the best examples of his lion’s roar style. Of course, his range is as deft as ever; the man really is a god among men.
Those who look to the Steele for grandeur likely won’t find disappointment here on Invictus, with tracks such as “Sword Of The Gods”, the super impressive “A Whisper Of Death”, and of course the majestic “Veni, Vedi, Vici” being nothing to sniff at. The latter of which is probably the finest moment on the album, as they put everything good about Invictus together for an ace finale: highly memorable riffs, excellent dynamics, and some of the best vocal lines DeFeis has ever performed.
Where I feel the biggest departure from the previous albums lies is in the atmosphere. Invictus doesn’t feel as all-encompassing as the last two records. The songs are little more simplistic, and obvious in what they’re going for despite some of the aforementioned grander tracks. This works to both the album’s slight detriment (for me) and its appeal. If you asked me where to start with Virgin Steele, chances are I’d tell you to start with Invictus. The song driven approach is ideal, and whilst I mentioned that it was similar to the first Marriage album, I’d say the songs are a lot easier to grasp, which is ideal for a newcomer.
As the end of the Marriage cycle, I’ve always felt Invictus came up a little bit short, as I documented well enough in The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell: Part II review, that’s one of my favorite albums. In terms of theme – as well as atmosphere – I don’t feel Invictus delivers suitable closure to the cycle. “Veni, Vedi, Vici” does come really close, although I think it’s more about the sum rather than the parts. As such, I personally like to take Invictus as a separate entity.
When taken out of context with what came before and what would come after, Invictus stands proud and mighty; an undoubtedly complete album which will always be the ideal starting point for prospective fans. As the final Marriage album, I find it ever-so-slightly wanting, although I feel it would be completely unfair to let my score reflect this. There isn’t really much left to say, people refer to Invictus and its siblings as the classic five Virgin Steele albums for a reason. Get this now!
Originally written for http://blackwindmetal.com