War… war certainly changes. Whether it was the Crusader’s use of the crossbow against their enemies’ inferior longbows, the subversive tactics of the Cold War, the intellectual dispute between the thought of Martin Luther and Francisco de Vitoria on the justness of combat (the latter was right, by the way), or the modern West taking Plato’s Republic one step further and treating everyone as the great philosopher did Greeks in our international war laws. The war machine built by Bolt Thrower changes as well, but not in watershed ways. One particular cog, America’s Invasion, is churning reliably and aggressively along on their fourth record Destroyer of Mankind.
On display here are the most common types of war-themed death metal: those of Bolt Thrower and Amon Amarth. In a similar vein to Predatoria’s excellent EP from last year, Invasion takes the chugging and churning of later Bolt Thrower (Mercenary onwards) and throws in the melodic tremolo riffing that characterizes later Amon Amarth (With Oden on Our Side onwards). Destroyer of Mankind also seems to reference Hail of Bullets and their take on Bolt Thrower, along with a tinge of hyper-modern Swe-death akin to later Demonical. Basically, Invasion is playing modern death metal with an eye to the old school, making relatively accessible songs with big chug riffs and some hooks, while not going off the rails with pretensions.
Through a healthy mixture of modern Bolt Thrower filtered through Demonical’s speed and riff-craft along with a solo section ripped straight from Amon Amarth’s unreleased highlight reel, “A Satisfying Death” shows Invasion in good form. It’s neither predictable nor shocking, ending up an engaging performance. “Play the Devil’s Piano” is the most concise blast of aggression on the record, reminding of Demonical’s “The Order” with a blitzkrieg of minor scales replacing the big Swedish melo-death chorus and a burlier midsection that aims for kinetic bludgeoning instead of melodic intrigue. Like a well-orchestrated attack, it’s quick, effective, and deadly.
Where Invasion errs is scoring less convincing victories in wars of attrition instead of decisive tactical ones. “Iron Bottom Sound” employs the Hail of Bullets tactic of playing a chunky riff and then doubling its speed as was done in “Guadalcanal,” which works when the song is under three and a half minutes. Invasion’s version is nearly six minutes long, and a brief but convincing guitar solo doesn’t have as much of an impact as it would’ve if the song was more concise. “The Divine Wind” has a devastating midsection, but rides a few minor variations on one unremarkable theme for the rest of its duration, making the whole song sound like an excuse to throw one legitimately solid idea at the listener. A final slightly irritating note is the prevalence of samples; literally, every one of the nine tracks starts with one, and they’re anywhere from fifteen to over thirty seconds long. It saps momentum, and only four of them are worthwhile and add something to Destroyer of Mankind.
Invasion’s sound is appropriately chunky, with every instrument sounding good and heavy. Drums are fairly loud yet unobtrusive, providing a consistent barrage that lets everything around them be heard, including a nice, thick bass. There’s nothing outright wrong or offensive on Destroyer of Mankind, but it too often relegates itself to war-themed background noise instead of grabbing the listener by the throat like Predatoria did on their last EP. While the record overall sounds longer than its forty-seven-minute runtime, quality tracks like “Shores of Betio Island” seem to fly by almost in spite of that. And yet, on the surface, the tracks aren’t all too different from each other and follow similar patterns. Invasion knows how to write quality death metal, but they sometimes miss the mark by a frustratingly small margin and make something that can’t drags itself out of the swamp of mediocrity. While not a poor record by any means, Destroyer of Mankind is a touch less than a good one but, for its faults, is enjoyable in its own right.