Review: Visigoth – The Revenant King

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I’m not exempt from favoritism. I’ll admit that. Local bias set the bar for Visigoth’s full length debut unreasonably high. I was all ready to proclaim The Revenant King one of the best albums of the year thus far and a worthy addition to the U.S. heavy/power metal resurgence. Those were my expectations, and The Revenant King tore through them like a battering ram through budget-ass toilet paper. It knocked me on my ass, held a sword to my throat and said, “Your expectations weren’t high enough. Die for your doubt.” With this I vowed to comply directly subsequent to finishing this review. Nice knowing you all.

Perhaps more than anything else, The Revenant King is a young band’s profession of immortal love for the many sundry realms of traditional metal, glorifying classic Manilla Road and Brocas Helm, early U.S. “power” metal, and epic doom with enough gusto to light fires in jaded hearts. It’s balls-to-and-then-clear-through-the-walls heavy metal; earnest music written and played with intensity and enthusiasm. It’s the kind of music that’ll pry your curmudgeonly folded arms apart and force your fists into the air.

And it won’t take long, either. The title track’s opening strains stand tall beside Grand Magus’ most fist-pumping openers, and it should only take around seven seconds for your slight nod of metal approval to become a glorious whirlwind of mane and majesty. The lively, time-tested drives of  “Dungeon Master” and “Creature of Desire” will have you pulling your patched-up battle vest out of retirement and committing your wimpy collared shirts and – god forbid – sweaters to the flame (you know who you are). They’re so catchy it’s downright wrong, and the guys really have the gift of the riff – burning through passage after passage of rousing, high-energy tunes. I should add that they’re capable of some impressive string sorcery when the noble solo beckons.

Some might argue – and some have argued – that traditional heavy metal only translates with quick, explosive songs like those mentioned above. To them I offer a mighty boot to the ass and a number of albums by DoomSword and Argus. Much of the album moves forward with a similarly ponderous step and temperament. The entirety of “The Revenant King” is a good reference point, though most of the songs tend to give way to slower passages of their own. Drawn-out and doomed, these sections provide a nice change of pace amid the more spirited songs. Album closer “From the Arcane Mists of Prophecy” – a sprawling Atlantean Kodex-style epic – brings the curtain down with dramatic power.

As solid as the music is, Visigoth seals the deal with its commanding voice. Jake Rogers steels his bent for crafting irresistible verses and choruses with a booming, robust bellow. He reminds of me Piet Sielck (Iron Savior/one of my favorite singers) in his treatment of both clear, soaring vocals and the occasional gravel-churning grit. “Mammoth Rider” and “Blood Sacrifice” are merciless foot-stompers with some of the most contagious vocal delivery I’ve ever heard. During one especially doomy section near the end of the former, Rogers and the band channel Candlemass so well that you can practically smell the inside of  Messiah Marcolin’s probably-unwashed robes. This is a compliment. For the proud, true, and saturated with baby oil, “Iron Brotherhood” provides a metal-for-the-sake-of-metal anthem straight out of Manowar’s golden, one-page (front and back) playbook.

I’ll acknowledge that The Revenant King runs a bit long at just over an hour. It’s risky business to release such a dense debut, but Visigoth have the tunes to back it up. I’d understand mild complaints of fatigue nearing the end, but I’m not of the same mind. I’m not willing to part with a single song; not even the weirdly-placed cover of Manilla Road’s classic “Necropolis” (which they knocked out of the park, by the way). Listening to The Revenant King all the way through might be a commitment, but it’s a commitment that pays off. Get this album. Allow your expectations to be slain with steel.

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I met vocalist Jake Rogers, who is too nice for his own good, before Visigoth’s set opening for Night Demon and Skull Fist. I decided to take advantage of his kindness and asked if he’d be willing to answer some questions for us, and he agreed. So, stick around for that.

(Photo VIA)

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