Hammers, axes and swords glint in the flickering torchlight as the tumultuous cacophony of an army on the march fills the night air. Women weep, clutching their children as they flee to forests deep, praying to the heavens for mercy. On this glorious night Visigoth has returned to reclaim the Immortal Throne, and the blood of the untrve will soon stain rock, stone and leaf. We’ve awaited this uprising since 2015 when their righteous debut scorched the land and revitalized the trve heavy metal genre, and 2018 finally sees the second crusade underway with Conqueror’s Oath. Our overlords have not changed their allegiances during their prolonged absence. They still wield the hammer of 120% pure American trve metal, and wear the armor of Manowar, Cirith Ungol and Manilla Road like patches on a ragged denim vest. Join the legion while you still can. Tales of heroism will be sung, and feats of strength will be indulged. Airing of grievances will not be tolerated and the penalty for disloyalty is a Leave the Hall pass and a date with the Rock of Shame. Unleash the hounds, light the arrows and refill the drinking horns. This day is a Red Day.
The first strike in the war for your adoration is a cunning one. “Steel and Silver” embodies everything good about the trve metal style – rabble rousing riffs, commanding vocals and a stirring call to arms that will have you girding your loins toot sweet. It’s a tough song to resist, designed to bring your inner warrior to the fore. The chorus is a giant killer and the song overflows with an epic atmosphere laced with slick guitar harmonies to anger up the blood. The similarities to Grand Magus are a boon aslo. The followup completes the pincer movement as “Warrior Queen” is another top-notch battle standard. It’s this album’s “The Revenant King” and captures your heart with its olde timey metal magic and tasty Maiden-esque guitar harmonies supporting Jake Roger’s powerful bellows ov i-ruhn.
“Traitor’s Gate” is my favorite cut, starting life as an emotive war ballad before the Elephants of the Apocalypse begin their unstoppable march and Manowar style bombast becomes the order of the day. It seems Visigoth cannot be slowed or contained on their campaign for trve metal supremacy, but like many brilliant warlords before them, they eventually meet their Waterloo, here courtesy of “Salt City.” Sounding like the bastard child of 90s KISS and The Night Flight Orchestra, it’s an awkward cock rocker which utterly derails the mammoth momentum the material had built, draining all the warrior bloodlust from your icy veins. It’s the equivalent of Aragon breaking the fourth wall during the Battle of Helms Deep to joke about the chances of ever overcoming the Uruk-Hai menace. It’s Agincourt and Chancellorsville rolled into one and the great Visigoth hordes are scattered and routed. They regroup to finish strong with the winning title track, but what a stunning defeat “Salt City” is.
As with the debut, the booming baritone of Jake Rogers drives the Visigoth sound. Like the late great Tony Taylor of Twisted Tower Dire, he’s not a high-register wailer and the music is all the better for his rough-hewn delivery. He imbues tracks like “Warrior Queen” and “Traitor’s Gate” with a hefty dose of machismo and bravado this style thrives on, and though he occasionally has minor tonal issues, he brings a larger-than-life energy to the songs. Jamison Palmer and Leeland Campana loot the storehouses of older 80s metal acts from Maiden to Cirith Ungol and Omen to churn their battle hymns with savory harmonies and beefy riffs. The songwriting also improved, with shorter songs and more memorable refrains. At a tight 42 minutes, the only real chaff is the aforementioned dud song, and the remainder is lean, mean and full of war beans.
I don’t always burn and pillage my town while listening to metal, but when I do, I prefer Visigoth. You should as well. This is trve metal done very right, and were it not for a glaring flub, this would be a great record. As is, I’ll be spinning this a whole lot in the coming months, and that should trouble my neighbors greatly. Somewhere in the night, a conqueror’s sword is being sharpened with ill intentions.