The German Black Metal force MAGOTH has kept a busy pace over the last few years having now released three full-length albums starting in 2017 with their debut, Anti Terrestrial Black Metal. After seemingly taking a year to regroup after some personal issues they have returned for 2020 with Invictus, which continues further into the dark void that was first explored on their previous albums. The music is executed in the cold melodic German Black Metal style to create a brooding atmosphere that effectively communicates the psychological torment recorded in the lyrics. While it appears that MAGOTH is actively pumping out albums, Invictus shows the quality has remained consistent and that they have yet to run out of ideas.
“The Reckoning” immediately sets the tone with an ominous riff that foreshadows the troubling journey ahead, and this riff also forms the chorus behind seething contemptuous screams. The next song had me picturing a cavern, and interestingly I looked down and saw the title was “Entering the Cavern of Grief.” Someone was clearly on point with these sounds, and the spoken words further create a sense of moving deeper into the mind’s abyss. This leads into “Possessed by Anxiety” which begins with a dazed or intoxicated guitar, and later an apparent mental breakdown and descent into madness is communicated with some harmonics driven by blast beats. Another standout brooding riff appears on “Ikaros,” and similar to songs like “The Reckoning” it exemplifies MAGOTH’s talent for working those minor chords and notes into malignant melodies that weigh your soul down. “Ascension” also creates this effect with a crushing wall of guitar and individually picked dissonant notes. It then goes into a groove with a vocal pattern that has screams hitting in between the drumbeats.
Songs like “Cain” take a slightly different approach. This one has more of a storytelling aspect while maintaining a sense of melancholy. Some atmospheric elements add another dynamic layer along with a guitar effect that makes the ending hook sound particularly sorrowful. “The False King” has some Thrash influence while tremolo riffs gradually ascend to a screaming peak. At this point the album is expressing less of the sickened mental abyss and more of rising out of it. Some of the cymbal work on this song also caught my attention. I admit I tend to focus more on the guitars when listening to albums, but the drums show that Alator was the right man for the job. He easily transitions from melodic and groovy tempos to flurrying blast beats, militant drumming, and other intricate fills that all contribute to the mood being conveyed through the riffs and vocals. These drum variations are captured again on the title track along with some guitar picking that creates a unique haunting vibe. “Resurrection of a Deceived God” starts with an echoing guitar effect before moving the album towards its conclusion. The haunting tone appears again while the vocals take one final lead, and these vocals have an extra bit of crackle to them which, along with more complementary drum work, sends Invictus off on a furiously grim and triumphant note.
An interview with Heergott shows Invictus to be documenting the frontman’s own recent struggle with mental health. Among other things, he details some of the causes behind these troubles and the significance of the Hydra on the album cover. Songs like “Possessed by Anxiety” and “Ikaros” adequately describe the mentality of someone descending into a pitch-black depressive state. “Ascension” is where things come to a point. It’s like he reaches out to touch death, and this causes a transformation that allows him to transcend this mental anguish and rise like a phoenix from the ashes. The songs following “Ascension” seem to carry this sense of coming through the other side, culminating with the exclamation of “I am a deity!” on “Resurrection of a Deceived God.” There is a certain pride and renewed strength radiating here as Heergott has clearly overcome his dark trial. This is also summarized with the album title being “Invictus,” which is Latin for “unconquerable.” Dark times are a part of life, but Invictus shows they can be overcome.
Everyone knows there is an overabundance of bands out there, and some seem to only be playing loud and brutal music. When listening to MAGOTH I can sense the distinct emotional energy and substance within the screams and music that truly genuine bands are able to express. They have likely found their niche in crafting melodic and brooding weighty riffs that, while sounding negative, manage to leave a positive impact on our ears. Releasing three albums in a relatively short time frame hasn’t resulted in any sacrificial quality in the music. Contrarily, Invictus shows that MAGOTH is still brimming with dark ideas and I look forward to hearing their next creation. Could that be as soon as 2121? Honestly, there is no hurry, and until that time I encourage everyone to experience the undefeatable journey on Invictus.