Anguish Force - Invincible Imperium Italicum 3.5/5
1. The impact II
2. The chalice of steel
3. Into the arena of blood
4. The silence after the ar
5. Fighting warriors
6. Rome over England
7. Ride the brave
8. No hostages
9. The fight
10. Follow the rainbow
Though unmistakably Italian to the bone, Anguish Force are something of a wildcard in a scene where melodic metal tends to be either wholly symphonic thunder or true Azzuri steel. Blending a variety of approaches, including a few nods back to their earlier incarnation as a more extreme metal outfit, their 3rd CD sees martial epic metal, soaring power metal and darker thrash elements meet in a potent cocktail of subgenres.
With a title like ‘Invincible Imperium Italicum’, though, it should be clear that the listener is lined up for some hard-hitting, Roman-themed battle hymns from these proud Italians. Song titles like “Rome over England” and “Fighting warriors” leave nothing to subtlety and are more steadfast examples of traditional epic metal, but there are also more surprising examples of speed and aggression to be found. “Into the arena of blood” and particularly the frenzied “No hostages” are the main perpetrators of this style, combining breakneck riffs with a hostile vocal approach completely contradictory to the melodic singing found elsewhere on the CD.
As is usually the case with Italian bands, Anguish Force feature some tremendous guitar talent, and the lead playing of songwriter and founder Luigi Guarino D. - highly developed solos that are clearly works of some effort rather than mere incidental fret runs - is to the benefit of many a song. The production also leans heavily in favour of the guitarist, with the harsh tone very high in the mix. It gives some added punch to proceedings, but can also be something of a distraction as the other tracks are drowned out - and it also must be said that it only exaggerates the similarity that already exists between the riffs in some of the songs.
Vocalist Johnny Thunder (sigh) is a bit of a mixed bag. Changing his voice to suit the assorted styles on the CD, he in turns sounds both inspired and completely off the pace. He finds his feet best on the songs of a lower tempo, particularly “The silence after the war” and the superlative, uplifting “Ride the brave”. On the faster songs though, ‘frantic’ would probably the best way to describe his performance – whether employing throaty rasps or wailing, over-the-top falsetto it usually sounds as though he is struggling to keep pace with the thundering music. It can’t be denied that his spirited efforts add a certain charm to proceedings, but there is no escaping the nagging feeling that it ultimately just sounds a bit amateurish. In his defence, the guitar bias in the production doesn’t do him any favours, and on the crunchier songs it even seems as though he is struggling to be heard above the clamour.
The mix of styles in the end leaves 'Invincible Imperium Italicum' as a quick and enjoyable experience, as the variety means the CD is never allowed to get bogged down in repetition. Though bereft of any definite direction, and hampered by an inconsistent vocal performance and odd production technique, it is a fine effort from a band with a lot going in their favour. Not a classic by any means, but solid as a rock and with considerable flair, it comes with a sound endorsement – particularly for those who like their Italian power metal to have a bit of guts about it.
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