Hails and congratulations on your new album, ‘Conqueror’s Oath’. But before we get more into that, let’s talk about the last few years. Things have gone quite fast for Visigoth since the release of your debut album, ‘The Revenant King’. How do you look back on the time when that album was released and the doors it has opened for you ever since?
Thanks! Mainly it seems like a series of steady steps. We started playing out of Utah in 2014, and kept doing successively larger tours. Each one was longer than the last, up until our short European tour last year. The time the album was released was a bit of an odd one. We had finished recording it more than six months before its release date, so we had just been playing local concerts and working our jobs for a while, as though nothing new was happening in our lives. After the release, we were really surprised by the positive reactions it received. It seemed as though its popularity grew in the years after its release as well. Looking back, the recordings are everything in our career. Most people listen to the recordings as opposed to seeing the live show, so it’s important to release good music!
The new album has just been released over a week now and the reactions from both the fans and the press has been very, very positive. Did you count on such receive or are you a bit overwhelmed with the reactions so far?
We all had talked about how we liked ‘Conqueror’s Oath’ better as an album than ‘The Revenant King’, but every artist likes their new material the best, so we were aware of our inability to be objective. I don’t think we were expecting how strong the fan’s reactions to the album has been. Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to while out and about on the road has been very positive about it. Of course, people who think we’re poser goons probably aren’t at our shows, so what do I know?
You know, with up and coming bands that start off strong and successful like yourself, I’m always curious about the second long player, and whether they can match or even top their debut. So the second album is even more crucial. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, so was there a bigger pressure on you when you started working on ‘Conqueror’s Oath’, and did you see it as a bigger challenge?
We were well aware of the dreaded “Sophomore Slump” and the high expectations after the first album’s popularity. In a way, it did make the pressure more intense, though we felt the songs were strong going into the studio, so most of the intensity was a result of the normal pressures of juggling real life and music.
Of course the first record is always a learning process. What were in your option the weaknesses of ‘The Revenant King’, and what were the main points that needed to be improved for ‘Conqueror’s Oath’?
I think the most obvious was length. We left another song on the cutting room floor during the ‘Revenant King’ sessions, so we recorded almost seventy minutes of music. We were just throwing everything we had at the microphones! Recording thirty minutes of music takes hours, so shortening ‘Conqueror’s Oath’ both saved us from hours and hours of studio time, and kept the length in more of the classic domain. I think what I’d like to see on our next album to improve on ‘Conqueror’s Oath’ would be more varied song structures, and more varied tonalities. That said, there’s no need to worry about us becoming a Yes clone or anything!
Although musically ‘Conqueror’s Oath‘ is a logical continuation of the first album, it shows a more direct and a more traditional approach, of you know what I mean. Shorter songs, more in your face and despite the variety more straightforward, in my opinion. Was that something that came naturally or a conscious choice?
A bit of both really. As we developed as musicians, we learned to condense songs into more impactful statements. We also had a problem in the live situation. When you have a thirty-minute slot and your songs are an average six minutes, you can only play five, and that’s without much talking onstage. People were feeling cheated by the small number of songs, even though we were totally squeezing every last minute out of our time slots! We had also talked about how it seems that the most impactful albums that we still listen to every day, the ‘Heaven and Hell’, ‘Defenders of the Faith’, ‘Killers’ level classic albums, run at a single LP length, or 35-45 minutes. It forces a band to only include the best songs on the album, instead of putting out all the stuff they wrote with no editing. Just because a CD can hold 80 minutes it doesn’t mean people want to sit through 80 minutes of middling music.
Your music is obviously influenced by the traditional, epic heavy metal but you definitely don’t limit yourself to the old-school and show a contemporary sound and approach, and therefore reach a larger audience. But do you think that the more traditional approach and vibe of the new record will somehow limit your audience?
We do listen to the heavier side of metal as well as the classic stuff, and it shows in, for example, the fact that we use the same guitar tuning as Carcass and are actually tuned lower than Dismember was on ‘Like An Everflowing Stream’. What seems to round it out is Jake’s melodic vocals, though I think calling clean singing “traditional” implies that a vocal melody is an archaic musical form, and I’d have to argue that the artistic possibilities of clean vocals are absolutely not exhausted yet. Regarding your second question, the traditional approach seems to be working for Black Sabbath, who sold out an arena last time I saw them. Judas Priest just had the highest chart position of their career, while Iron Maiden is doing better than ever. Those legendary bands are obviously quite a few levels above us, but my main point is that the potential audience is out there for our kind of music.
Something that always bothers me is when new bands that have made a name and reputation for themselves in the “old-school” scene, suddenly take a more modern approach and are hardly to be recognized any more. The majority of your audience at the moment is also in the underground and tradition metal-focused festivals, and as you know the fans are not only very loyal but also very fanatic. How important is it for you to expand your audience, while maintaining the already conquered fanbase?
We have no interest in changing our sound to buff out every imperfection. If anything, and I can only speak for myself on this one, is that as I grow as a musician, I’ve become more interested in honest and natural recordings. It’s much more of a challenge to play well on a recording than to be produced well, if that makes sense.
You have just done a big European headlining tour with about 20 shows. If I’m not mistaking this was your biggest tour so far, with hardly any days off in between the gigs. Please describe our feelings about this...
It was our second biggest, though certainly our most intense. Our longest run was a five-week USA/Canada tour supporting our friends in Night Demon. That had many more days off though! It was definitely an endurance test, with overnight drives to airports and early morning flights, not enough sleep, illness, and more, but it did feel much different than any tour we’ve done before. We sold our first clubs out, we’ve never done that before. It felt like a milestone.
Half of the upcoming tour will take place in Germany. Of course Germany has always been a great market for heavy metal in general. But why is it that most of this tour is on the German soil and only five other countries?
Germany is our base of support in Europe. The entire continent is a fantastic place for heavy metal, especially compared to attendance in our homeland, but it seems like Germany in particular has the biggest appetite for our music. We play where we can get booked, so there are no other motives in playing most of the concerts in Germany, it’s just where a lot of the booking opportunities seem to be.
What’s on the menu for you guys at the moment?
Right now, a few shows and festivals in the USA throughout the year, songwriting for the next album, and we hope to return to Europe soon as well.
Having witnessed your gig at the Keep It True festival last year I remember Jake saying that “this had been the dream” since you guys started. Since that dream has already come true, what’s the next dream?
It was a feeling of “I guess we’ve done it” as playing events like KIT was what we talked about all those years ago when we first started. At this point, it seems that what we have left to do is strive to improve our shows and musicianship, and see how far it will go.
Well then, I guess we can call it a day for now. Unless of course there is something left that you’d like to mention…
Cheers! Thanks for the interview.