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Like a tree falling in the forest when no one's around to get crushed under it, NecronomicoN (not to be confused with the Canadian band, and others by the same name) is one of those third-division Teutonic thrash bands that even a self-respecting metal expert could go through life and never hear hide nor hare of. After producing a trio of serviceable albums between 1986-1988, then breaking up and making up in order to record a mid-'90s LP, founding members Volker Fredrich (vocals, guitar) and Andreas Gern (guitar) dragged themselves out of retirement one more time in 2004, and have been recording sporadically ever since with a variety of henchmen. Throughout these countless stops and starts, the band has commendably stuck, by and large, to its traditional thrash metal guns, but a history of being overlooked and achieving underground success, at best, won't likely be changed by 2012's confidently named Invictus. Opening cut "Invictus," for example, bears a suspicious resemblance to Judas Priest's "Painkiller," while the forceful, hardcore-inspired chorus of "Bloody Bastards" puts one in mind of a Trivium or Hatebreed, so it's obvious that NecronomicoN are reaching pretty far and wide for touchstones here -- perhaps because their everyman thrash personality never got them over the hump in the first place. That's not to say NecronomicoN can't thrash their "esels" off, never mind "bang that head that doesn't bang" -- they can! -- but conquering the world is, ahem, another matter -- especially when their unapologetically melodic songwriting pushes the band's modern sound closer to power metal, where the competition is absolutely fierce. Among the standouts here, "Unleashed" survives a rough start to deliver an undeniably powerful second half, the ominously introduced "Upon Black Wings" latches onto an agile lick that Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith would be proud of, and the vintage bulldozing perpetrated by album-closer "Possessed by Evil" erases all the years and plops us right back in those mosh-tastic days of 1986…which ultimately makes sense since its original version graced NecronomicoN's first album. In short: Invictus provides exceedingly competent and often entertaining thrash without too many bells and whistles, and that's just fine for many enthusiasts of the genre. Into the pit!

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