This lavish re-issue of VS’s 1998 opus is very much – as it was originally – a companion piece to the also re-packaged ‘The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell I+II (reviewed here: http://planetmosh.com/virgin-steele-the-marriage-of-heaven-and-hell-iii/) – and indeed serves as the third instalment of what eventually would become a quartet of themed albums (the fourth and final part, ‘Ghost Harvest’, was originally scheduled to be the bonus disc with this edition, but instead this 19-song epic has been saved for a forthcoming box set), but also a stand-alone album in it’s own right.
There are a number of differences between ‘Invictus’ and its two predecessors. For a start, the storyline is more focussed – telling the tale of Endyamon and Emalaith (a character first introduced in the second part of ‘The Marriage…’) in their battle against the gods, representing humanity’s fight against oppression and tyrany, in no matter what form it takes…
Secondly, it is more ambitious. Perhaps able to avail of an increased budget after the success of the first two albums, there is a greater use of orchestration and sound effects, while retaining their basic chest-thumping bravado – especially in relation to David DeFeis’ bombastic and overblown lyrical content vocal delivery. And the overall structure of the album is tighter and more cohesive, leading to an ultimately more rewarding listening experience.
In common with the first two parts of the tale, this re-issue suffers from what can be regarded as out-dated production values, and the fact that it is almost 20 years old does show through, although not as obviously as on the first two albums. Again, maybe the intervention of modern technology could have added a little bit of spit and polish to bring the sound more up-to-date – but that is not to denigrate the value and worth of this fine package which, once again, serves to remind of the ambition of its creators in trying to do something different with the metal sound of that era: a sound which it has taken many acts the intervening years to recapture – and making you wonder just how bloody powerful this triptych of albums would sound with a ‘makeover’!
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this re-issue is the bonus disc: as referenced above, this was originally intended to be a brand new album, which in turn would serve to close the ‘Marriage…’ cycle. But, this fourth album rapidly over-stretched itself, and so the band instead have opted to include a collection of acoustic medleys, all recorded live, featuring tracks from the three existing ‘Marriage…’ albums, and a few others, as well as a new studio song (‘Do You Walk With God). It is an extremely interesting collection, standing truly erect in its own right while at the same time demonstrating the power of the chosen songs in a different, stripped-back format which is as fulfilling as the main albums.
Disc One – Invictus:
The Blood Of Vengeance / Invictus / Mind, Body, Spirit, In The Arms Of The Death God / Through Blood And Fire / Sword Of The Gods / God Of Our Sorrows / Vow Of Honour / Defiance / Dust From The Burning / Amaranth / A Whisper Of Death / Dominion Day / A Shadow Of Fear / ‘Theme’ From The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell / Veni, Vidi, Vici
Disc Two – Fire Spirits
Dark Distant Future (A Whisper Of Death (intro) / Unholy Water / Trail Of Tears) / With Vengeance Divine (Rising Unchained / Veni, Vidi, Vici / Victory Is Mine) / Hail The Conquering Hero (A Whisper Of Death / Great Sword Of Flame / Emalath / The Burning Of Rome (Cry For Pompeii) / Perfect Mansions) / Do You Walk With God
Recommended listening: A Whisper Of Death.
‘The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell I+II’ and ‘Invictus’ are both released via Steamhammer/SPV on June 30.