I love Heavy Metal.
Ah, let’s try that again. I love Heavy Metal.
That unplanned, unstoppable euphoric feeling that rises through from the gut, that creates an extra pump to your heartbeat, that puts an involuntary grin on your face, that makes you propel a fist, or add an extra bounce to your step. Or gurn. Or do the oranges. Or the claw. Or however, it is that you express that feeling of “YES!” when it gets you.
Which is part of why I’m always hard on new traditionally influenced bands – any band playing music that relies on revisiting a previous (and, for large parts of my formative years, much maligned – it’s a difficult thing to shake off once you’ve allowed yourself to go full on St Peter on something) branch of music has got to do something special to pass muster. This is the stuff I love the most, and the stuff I’m toughest on.
But, with Conqueror’s Oath (Metal Blade), I full on believe in Visigoth.
The moment of realisation that Visigoth had nailed it came eleven and a half minutes into my first listen when third track, ‘Outlive Them All’, roars out of the gates, led by one of many “Ooergh!”’s (there is a tasty one in every track, I believe, but this is one of the best), an energetic amalgam of Iron Maiden’s ‘Purgatory’ and Judas Priest’s ‘Freewheel Burning’ exploding, forcing a spontaneous burst of extra energy as I pounded the cross-trainer at the gym, before ‘Hammerforged’ laid down a
Grand Magus stomp, a fist-pumping anthem of repute.
I was more than won over, but then, I had been well warmed up. ‘Steel and Silver’ is a lively opener with a strong chorus (“First song and I’m having to restrain myself from swinging an imaginary sword on the train” GC’s Richie HR messaged me the other day), and ‘Warrior Queen’ ups the ante, not unlike Amon Amarth if the Death Metal was removed. And we’re still not at the album’s peak, for at track five, ‘Traitor’s Gate’ is a story well told, from its heroic, deliberate opening strains, through seven stirring minutes of great, epic proper Heavy Metal. Then the ‘goth go on a homage to their homestead, adding some Kiss swagger to the fun frolics of ‘Salt City’ before the album closes with a doomier trudge of a title track that builds deliberately in the way that all the best slower Heavy Metal tracks should. Repeat listens and increasing familiarity have only served to firm up and enhance my joyous feelings towards this album.
Whereas debut The Revenant King made plenty of promising noises, Conqueror’s Oath is masterful. There is no dropping of quality, as eight tracks of rousing US Power Metal (which is different to the cleaner, European Helloween influenced Power Metal subgenre – if Blind Guardian are the Hollywood sheen, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, Visigoth are John Boorman’s Excalibur, with mud and blood under their fingernails), Visigoth are what could have happened to Omen if they’d gotten better, not worse, after Battle Cry (Metal Blade).
Visigoth are clearly students of the game, and their love of the art form that is Heavy Metal is prevalent in every moment on display here. This is no ironic, tongue-in-cheek pandering, and no games are being played. This is a group of people producing an updated, excellent version of a style of music they love. If they’d have existed back when I was a thirteen-year-old digging through record shops for Raven vinyl, I’d have trawled for them too and drawn their logo next to the Iron Maiden and Kreator ones on my school folders.
I fucking love Heavy Metal, and I fucking love Conqueror’s Oath .