Released By – Nightmare Records
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Genre: Progressive Metal
Ben Rodgers – Vocals
Stig Nergård – Guitars
Ivar Hagen Bøe – Bass
Anders Berg Sundbø – Keyboards
Vidar Lehmann – Drums
1. Ab Aeterno
2. Red Horizon
3. Eden Burns
4. Reflections Remain
5. Twilight Hour
6. Sands Of Gold
10. Dies Irae
Coming out of Norway is a very promising, relatively new progressive metal band called Tellus Requiem, who have just released their sophomore album “Invictus (The 11th Hour”), and while the band’s name may be very grim, I’d say their future doesn’t look nearly as bleak if this album is anything to go by. I haven’t heard their debut yet, but this album both shows a lot of promise for the band going forward, and delivers something very satisfying for fans to enjoy right now. Based on my experience, I’d say it also serves as a great introduction to their music.
The first thing that stuck out to me about this album is that these guys play some truly killer riffs, and the heavier parts of the album are always great, thanks to the excellent guitar work, which is certainly similar to Symphony X at times. In fact, while the band does a good job of distinguishing themselves from other bands, I’d say SX are the closest comparison to them, as even some of their quiet parts sound somewhat similar. The musicianship is excellent all around and it can certainly be very technical at times, especially during those heavier parts, and when they mix the keyboards in with the chunky guitars.
Most songs here are over six minutes, and this is a progressive album in a most traditional way, so you can certainly expect some very complicated songwriting as well as some very impressive solos, though the songs are placed in such a way it becomes very easy to follow after a couple listens. There’s obviously some exceptions to the rule, but for the most part the first half is quite a bit heavier, while the second half is rather calm and very melodic. Actually, as heavy as some songs can get, there are many sections where the guitars take a backseat and keyboards and vocals take over, so it can be very nice and relaxing at points. A few songs have some symphonic elements, which are used very nicely, and there’s also the occasional use of operatic female vocals which work very well and add to the often epic feel of the music.
The main vocals here are quite excellent, though at least by my experience they may take a while to get used to. At first I thought Ben Rodgers was a little weak on some of the heavier sections, but after hearing the album a few times and getting to focus on his voice a lot more, I’d say he does a great job all around, though it’s clear he excels during the more melodic sections, as his voice simply works better when he gets to sing more calmly, plus he adds in some nice little touches which help him to sound rather unique for the genre.
Intro tracks are often forgettable, but “Ab Aeterno” is surprisingly interesting and it does a nice job of showing what the listener can expect from the album. It opens with some nice operatic vocals, and overall it mixes together the typical symphonic and orchestral elements you’d typically hear from an intro track, but with the guitar occasionally kicking in for some pretty awesome riffs, plus a nice acoustic section near the end. It sets a high standard for the first proper song and “Red Horizon” certainly delivers. After a nice keyboard intro, it quickly turns into one of the heaviest songs on the album, with some great riffs and complex rhythms, and overall it’s a great showcase for the more technical side of the band.
My two favorites are paired next together, with “Eden Burns” being a nice bridge between the two different sides of the band, in that it starts off very aggressive and off-beat like the previous song, but by the time the chorus arrives it has calmed down quite a bit, and it starts to show the softer side of the band with some excellent vocals from Ben, and from there the song alternates between the two styles the rest of the way through. Though the absolute best vocal parts are on “Reflections Remain”, which is both the longest song at just over 8 minutes and my personal favorite. This song mostly features keyboards and acoustic guitars and is basically a very long ballad. The vocals are very strong and very emotional, and this is where Ben gets to show off some of his tricks, though he’s also quite impressive on “Redemption”.
For the most part the second half of the album doesn’t bring as many fresh ideas as the first half, and is mostly very mellow, with just the occasional burst of heaviness. The two exceptions are “Sands Of Gold”, which is probably the heaviest, most complicated and definitely the most explosive song on the album, and the title track which starts off slow but quickly picks up momentum and delivers a very epic and fast-paced chorus, with maybe some subtle power metal elements. The operatic vocals also make a brief but awesome return right near the end. That is the last proper song, as “Dies Irae” is an outro, but it’s a very good one. After a short vocal part, it turns into something you’d expect to hear at the end of a film score, though towards the end the guitars and drums appear for a pretty epic moment.
Overall, “Invictus” is a very strong album and is sure to please fans of complex and technical progressive metal, with a nice melodic side to it. I do prefer the first half for its variety, but on the whole this is a very satisfying album from a very promising band.
Written by Travis