With the release of 2018’s Conqueror’s Oath, American metal stalwarts Visigoth were as white-hot as ever. Intending to keep that heat, they released a two track EP titled Bells of Awakening just last month. Everything you’ve come to know and love Visigoth for – the tremendous vocals, catchy riffs, and singalong choruses – is out in full force here. The band has stamped out their own style of traditional heavy metal and Bells of Awakening further solidifies that.
Relative to the extreme metal world, the traditional metal fandom is quite tiny with a relatively small number of bands having anywhere near the reach of their more extreme peers. However, Visigoth are an exception to that rule. Over the years, they’ve made their mark as a leader of a new generation of traditional metal artists, in fact, they might just be the most popular new band drawing influence from the US Power / Epic metal strains, styles that are near and dear to my heart. The reason for Visigoth’s relative success is simple – combining the riffy, but chorus driven nature of bands like Twisted Tower Dire with the doomy approach of Grand Magus, the songs are just damn catchy and accessible while still holding substance.
Visigoth’s first release was a demo in 2010 and while Vengeance was a solid demo, they didn’t really explode until the release of their debut album, The Revenant King, in 2015. This album was longer and doomier, with more of an emphasis on their epic metal influences than the album that would follow. Conqueror’s Oath on the other hand featured Visigoth taking a more straightforward, up-beat approach that further explored the band’s love of European style power metal. Bells of Awakening puts us somewhere in between the two styles with each of its tracks fitting comfortably into one of the sounds.
The EP opens up with “Fireseeker”, and while this is the shorter track of the two, its pacing is slower and more deliberate. The instrumentation in this song takes a step back and opens up to allow all star singer Jake Rogers to take the reins and carry the song with soaring vocals and catchy choruses. It’s a safe formula for Visigoth that’s never a bad listen, but doesn’t really push the band’s musical boundaries. The next track, “Abysswalker”, picks up the pace a bit and the instrumentation is more central to the song. There are still plenty of vocal driven moments for Jake to shine, but the riffs are stronger and overall it’s a better song. What really ties it all together is perhaps the best production Visigoth has had to date. My biggest criticism of Visigoth has historically been that the production is too polished and clean. Bells of Awakening is a bit rougher than what we got with the last two full lengths and while it’s still a bit too clean for my tastes, the change is welcome in my book.
Overall, Bells of Awakening doesn’t deviate too far from the standard Visigoth sound that we’ve come to know and love, but it’s a release that fans of the band are bound to enjoy. The art is gorgeous, the production is some of Visigoth’s best so far, and the songs are fun as hell. It’s a solid release that inspires further confidence in the band and bodes well for Visigoth’s future.
Release rating: 80/100
Favorite track: Abysswalker
Metal Blade Records