Monday, 8 June 2015

George Kollias - 'Invictus' (Album Review)




Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 18/5/2015
Label: Season of Mist

‘Invictus’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

01. Echoes of Divinity
02. Invictus
03. The Passage
04. Aeons of Burning Galaxies
05. Shall Rise/Shall Be Dead
06. Voices
07. Treasures of Nemesis
08. Apocalypse
09. Epitaph
10. Through Empty Eyes of Light
11. Buried under the Flames

Bonus Tracks
12. Aeons of Burning Galaxies (R. Cooley Shred Version)
13. Voices (E. Karadimas Vox Version)
14. Epitaph (Drum Track)
15. Apocalypse (A. Trapalis Violin Version)

Review:

In the world of extreme metal, George Kollias needs no introduction. He sits in an elite class of metal drummers, where speed and 4-limb independence are taken to the limits of human ability. If there were an Olympics of extreme metal drumming, he would be vying for the gold against heavyweights like Derek Roddy, Gene Hoglan, or Flo Mounier.

Outside of that world, the conversation goes something like this:  After I put on track 3 of ‘Invictus’ during a road trip, my friend's response: "Whoa that drumming is insane! What band is that?"

Me: "George Kollias."
Friend: "Cornholio?"
Me, laughing: "No man, it's the drummer from Nile, George Kollias."
Friend: "George Cornholio?"
Me: "Forget it..."

If you don't get this pop culture reference, you've never seen the show Beavis and Butthead, and I feel bad for you. Also, that is a real conversation I had last weekend.
But this brings up a valid point, why not name the project something more-- metal?
After doing some research, I discovered that George has an extensive fan base and they rabidly love his music. It started with his instructional videos on YouTube, which have millions of views.  He recently got an enormous response to his self-recorded songs, which he intended only to be backing tracks for his drum instructional videos and live clinics. The fan response was so positive, that he decided to take the songs to the next level, adding vocals, better production, guest musicians, and releasing the songs as a full-length album on Season of Mist, which is available now.

Without a doubt, the guy is an incredible drummer, but when "super musicians" like this put out a solo album, the music too often takes a backseat and serves merely as an accompaniment to showcase their virtuoso musicianship. Not so with ‘Invictus’, the debut solo album from George Kollias!  This album is a face melter. Not only is the musicianship top notch, the songs are an excellent collection of beautifully composed, blistering technical death metal. The vocals sound fresh and inspired, the guitars are blazing, and the drums are exactly what you want from George Kollias: a perfect blend of envelope-pushing technical wizardry and head-nodding musicality.

For his solo debut, George plays all the instruments and does most of the vocal tracking, with various guests appearing throughout the album, including members of Nile and Rotting Christ.  To prove that the album is not just about blast beats, the opening track is a creepy intro with spoken word, followed by the title track, which begins as a relatively sparse and downtempo song that then builds step by step into a magnificent blast beat assault. 

Track 3, ‘The Passage’, hits you like a brick wall before breaking down into a hand percussion interlude, then slamming right back into double bass mayhem.  What I also like about this album are the atmospheric sound textures peppered throughout. They give the ear a break from the intense blast beats, add another layer of sonic texture, and serve to link the songs into a cohesive, flowing album.  ‘Invictus’ is a 55-minute ride from hell on the back of a motorcycle driven by a post-apocalyptic warlord. The songs take mind-bending twists and turns, from crushingly slow to some of the most intense blast beats ever recorded.

The album is more than a vehicle for George Kollias's phenomenal drumming, the song writing is excellent and the album stands on its own.  He could easily have named this band an actual band name, and possibly reached more listeners... do the words George Kollias sound very metal? I think if you were to ask George or any of his fans, the response would be, "Who gives a fuck?" This album is a personal achievement for George and a labor of love between a humble musician and his fans. I have a feeling we will be hearing more from him down the road sooner rather than later.

Whether you are a musician who wants to get schooled by some of the most technical playing on the planet, or if you're a genuine metal head who just loves heavy and extreme music, definitely check out this album, which is downloadable for free on his website, or available on CD and LP. I'll be getting this one on vinyl for sure!

Words by: Doza Hawes

‘Invictus’ is available here

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