George Kollias is a name that most death metal fans are probably familiar with. He’s the Greek drummer who helped defined the sound of Egyptian-themed technical death metal band Nile, and he’s also one of the fastest players of his instrument. Well, while his main project is working on their new album, he’s decided to get his guitar out and decided to make a solo album! And he does everything on the album, from the guitars to the vocals, and obviously, the drumming (there are a few guest solos from fellow musicians like Karl Sanders, Dallas Toller-Wade, Theodore Ziras and Rusty Cooley). Turns out he’s pretty good at everything! But the question is, can he differentiate himself from the music he normally makes, and regardless of his other output, does this album stand on its own as a good death metal album? Yeah.
So, unsurprisingly, Invictus sounds quite a bit like Nile. The riffing has a slightly oriental feel to it (not as much as Nile though), there’s some world instruments here and there, and the vocal stylings of Kollias are also clearly influenced by Karl Sanders and Dallas Toller-Wade. Which is all fine, people who are fans of Kollias will obviously also be fans of Nile and having a different spin on that sound is probably what most listeners want from this record. It’s not a carbon copy of Nile, but the connections are there. Invictus compares to George’s main band’s heaviest album For Whom The Gods Detest, as that album compares to their less heavy albums. Faster, punchier, “more death metal”, all that. The production is really crisp (detractors of the production on the mothership’s albums would probably enjoy this), the songs are snappy and headbang-inducing… then where’s the problem?
The problem is twofold. First of all, despite being a drummer’s album, the drum work on this album isn’t really that interesting. Of course, it’s blazing fast to the point of being ridiculous, but going at unfathomable speeds and writing interesting fills aren’t mutually exclusive! Archspire‘s Spencer Prewett also drums with ungainly ferocity, yet he still has very creative parts. What’s even weirder is that Kollias himself has demonstrated more creativity in his work with Nile! He normally has more flourishes, off-beat snare hits and other tricks that make his drumming stand out, yet they’re not used often here. Perhaps this is an artifact of him not having separate writers to play off of, as Toller-Wade and Sanders are known for their riffing in odd time signatures which requires some mathematical effort to accompany; whereas with everything being written and performed by a single person, there is no interplay of ideas.
Secondly, the riffing is rather repetitive. Similar licks are employed in several songs, and most songs generally have a similar feel. While this is par for the course for a lot of run-of-the-mill death metal, one can’t help but expect a bit more from George Kollias himself. Sure, if really fast death metal with a lot of headbanging regardless of how varied and repeatedly listenable it isn’t is what one wants, then Invictus is pretty good for that. It’s solid, decently well produced, and played with the finesse only one of the fastest drummers on the world can manage. But given Kollias’s other efforts, it’s hard not to expect a little bit more from him.
Regardless, Invictus is quite solid and maybe these complaints are doing disservice to it, because in the end it doesn’t really matter – the album is a blast to listen to, pun very much intended. And to be fair, there’s the occasional ambient track, something with spoken word over dramatic noises, and even a song accompanied by a metronome, because why not. And the album is free on Kollias’s website, so there no excuse not to give it a shot. This might have read like a laundry list of complaints, but it’s simply because the standard is high, and there’s not much else to complain about. You like Nile? Listen to this, you’ll enjoy it. You like death metal in general? You’ll probably enjoy this anyway. You don’t like death metal? What is wrong with you?
George Kollias’s Invictus gets…