On the surface, there’s not much to say about Visigoth other than “yeah, they’re pretty good.” Formed in 2010, they’re one of the bands at the forefront of the New Wave of Traditional Metal movement (more on that from Eden and myself in a couple days), fitting comfortably into the classics-reviving zeitgeist that has also spawned acclaimed bands like Sumerlands, Medevil, and Lunar Shadow. They’re fairly straightforward, as far as these groups go: they tend to eschew any sort of gimmick of technicality or thematic novelty in favor of just rocking the hell out and playing some classic Manilla Road-inspired heavy metal. So, yeah: it’s easy to write off Visigoth as “pretty good” and not much more than that.
Repeat listens, however, allow Visigoth to unfold more of their capabilities as a band. That’s not to say they’ve got subtleties to reveal – complex polyphonies and Gorguts-style layers of counterpoint melody – so much as that their songs are even better when you know somewhat of what to expect. All of the members of Visigoth have spent time in various bands of other genres in their home scene of Salt Lake City, and their tracks are clearly the work of veteran songwriters. Buildups into choruses gain momentum on repeat listens, melodies become earworms of the most infectious type, and as the lyrics ease into focus more, their tongue-in-cheek nature starts to perfectly contrast the straightforward nature of the instrumentation.
There’s also just so much energy in their music. Every song, on both their first album and Conqueror’s Oath, is packed to the seams with moments of pure elation; these points where the galloping drums, harmonized guitars, and soaring vocals coalesce into this burst of pure joy that’s impossible to mistake as something possible by a “pretty good” band. It’s in the crucible of these moments of unbridled kinetic energy that Visigoth stakes their claim to being one of the best bands currently a part of the New Wave of Trad Metal movement. It’s infectious as hell, it’s addicting beyond belief, and it just straight-up works perfectly.
Conqueror’s Oath also bears one of the hallmarks of veteran songwriters: it attacks the “second-album conundrum” perfectly. We’ve spoken about this at length on Heavy Blog, but to wit: a band’s second album is a terrifying challenge because it necessitates both a doubling-down on the band’s identity and a move to expand their sonic palette. It’s a bit of a paradox and a huge tension to overcome; second albums have to be the same as the first, but also better and different.
Visigoth, however, has identified exactly what works about their sound – those moments mentioned above – and all the problems their first album, The Revenant King suffered from, and strengthened themselves accordingly. The Revenant King suffered from a serious problem of the band not knowing when to trim the fat, and consequently was bloated and sprawling. It was still a good album, but no songs of nine, save for a Manilla Road cover, clocked in under six minutes, and four of those remaining eight ran over the seven-minute mark. Contrast that to Conqueror’s Oath: the longest song here, the mini-epic “Traitor’s Gate,” runs 6:53. The album, as a whole, is a full 20 minutes shorter than its predecessor, a necessity for strengthening their sound. It doubles down on this with a much stronger focus on melody and actual songwriting instead of just returning to riffs from time to time.
Conqueror’s Oath deserves the highest praise a sophomore effort from a band can receive: it is exactly what it should be. It’d be an amazing heavy metal album from a band that’s been around for 20 or more years; it’s a new crown jewel in the rising wave of traditional metal when Visigoth’s youth as a band is brought into the equation. Everything here works, everything hits exactly as it should, and, most importantly, everything here feels necessary. Conqueror’s Oath is the new leader of this upcoming genre’s charge, the nigh-impenetrable front-line of the Trad Metal Revival phalanx. Play it loud, play it proud, and rock the fuck out.
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Visigoth releases Conqueror’s Oath through the indomitable Metal Blade Records on February 9th. You can and should preorder it here.