Title: Conqueror’s Oath
Genre: Heavy Metal/Power Metal
Release Date: February 9, 2018
Length: 42 min.
Label: Metal Blade Records
Personnel: Jake Rogers (Lead Vocals), Leeland Campana (Lead Guitar), Jamison Palmer (Guitars), Mikey T. (Drums), and Matt Brotherton (Bass Guitar)
There are plenty of bands running around these days heavily inspired by the NWOBHM original groups. Most of these, however, play overly cheesy power metal, and most of them fall terribly middle of the road. A few worthy bands have released good material in the past little while, but mostly we get crap in this arena. The good ones we do get usually either fully embrace the cheesiest of Velveeta, going full in and appealing in that regard along with talent-driven instrumentation, like Battle Beast, or they mix power metal with death metal stylings, like a lot of what Unleash the Archers do.
Not Visigoth. They play unapologetic, straightforward, NWOBHM music that sounds like it’s coming at you straight from the 1980s, and they perform it well, especially here on their sophomore album. Do they cover cheesy subjects in their songs? Sure thing! Yet they do it with such conviction that you almost forget the subject matter and get sucked right into the music. Here’s what their page on Metal Blade Records website has to say about them:
Standing in staunch opposition to any presumptuous notion of “reinventing the wheel” or “redefining the genre”, VISIGOTH instead dedicates themselves to worshipping at the ageless altars of heavy metal with a singular focus on writing music inspired by their favorite records. Whether whipped into a frenzy ignited by classic USPM or NWOBHM anthems, or pensively meditating on traditional epic heavy metal or weighty doom-inspired moments, these Salt City hessians wear their influences proudly on their sleeves.
It helps that Rogers possesses a powerful vocal toolbox, which he pulls from regularly and consistently. He can go high and belt it out, but big deal, since all these bands do that. Yes, but there is also a thick layer of strength here, a solid foundation for those highs to stand upon. He can go low if he needs as well, and both sides of his range are equally compelling.
In addition, the instrumentation is all solid, with the rhythm guitar exactly what’s needed and sometimes even stronger than that, same for the drums. The bass actually gets to shine a few times also, and Brotherton proves sterling too. The lead guitars, though, shine the brightest, like they should in this sort of music. Campana gives us some killer, often progressive, flaming fretwork. And both guitarists give us some great interplay. The compositions and lyrics are pretty decent, with some apt fantasy storytelling, the best being on the track “Warrior Queen.” I also want to mention that the guys add a unique flair to each track, which helps the album avoid a sense of same-sameyness.
“Steel and Silver” starts off the album fiercely, with a great example of Visigoth’s ability and sound. It’s that good ole’ NWOBHM sonic barrage, with hints of speed and thrash mixed in. Sometimes Visigoth sound like Motörhead, but they’re usually more in the vein of Iron Maiden, Dio, and Saxon.
Occasionally, you can catch suggestions of other inspirations. They dip into the glam side of heavy metal-leaning hard rock, like Van Halen or KISS, with the track “Salt City” exemplifying this best. They lightly salt the album with a few proggy moments. And the title track closer reveals the heaviest of their doom influences, though you’ll hear Black Sabbath-style rhythms throughout the album’s runtime. “Outlive Them All” is a fine example of them having a bit more than just the usual, boring instrumentation, with part of the rhythm section cutting across the drums.
Visigoth assembled and produced this album much better than they did their debut, The Revenant King. Conqueror’s Oath sounds better and features both better-trimmed songs and a tighter track list, with a high quality mix and a value to the production that lets you feel present in the studio, as if you’re there watching them rock out. The album is not flawless, though. The track I mentioned earlier, “Salt City,” Visigoth’s ode to their home, does feel a little out-of-place. I enjoyed it with its fun, funky bass line in the intro, but if you don’t like the number, it will be a dead stop in the album’s flow for you. Beyond that, Rogers’s voice stumbles a couple of times, and one or two moments instrumentally could have been polished one more time.
Here recently, it was neat to see Anvil release a new album, one of their best in years, and Saxon gifted us all another solid entry, but this, Visigoth and Conqueror’s Oath, is where it’s at, as far as I’m concerned, if you’re looking for a new album that holds the NWOBHM/classic metal banner high without a trace of shame in its countenance.
I’m going to give Visigoth’s Conqueror’s Oath an 82%. It’s an enjoyable record, and it sounds like Visigoth had fun making it.