I don't know what impressed me the most; Visigoth's spectacular debut album "The Revenant King" or how decent guy the mighty singer Jake Rogers seems to be. After the confirmation that they will be a part of the upcoming Up The Hammers Festival in 2016, it seems that the time is right for all of you to read all the interesting things he have to say about their band, their plans and expectations and of course about epic heavy metal. I can't find the right adjectives to describe his passionate words about some of his favorite bands and the epic sound in general. You have to check this out by yourselves.
First of all I want to congratulate you for “The Revenant King”. It is a fine example of how an epic heavy metal album must sounds in 2015! Please introduce yourselves.
Thank you, Kostas! Glad to hear you enjoy the album. I am Jake Rogers, the singer, and my bandmates are Lee Campana and Jamison Palmer on guitar, Matt Brotherton on bass, and Mikey Tee on drums.
Since I know that you had release an EP back in 2012, do you want to share with as what happened from the day you formed until today? Why it took you so long to release your debut album?
We spent most of our time between forming the band and now playing live here in our hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah. The time between our EP and full-length was really just a matter of finding a way to fund the recording budget. Luckily, Metal Blade decided to sign us, which solved that problem!
You are fighting under the banner of an historic label such as Metal Blade. How this deal happened and how you feel about that?
The deal happened because Swords & Chains Records released our demo and EP on cassette tape, which found its way into the hands of Sarlacc Productions and Cruz Del Sur, who teamed up to release our EP on vinyl. The owner of Sarlacc sent the music to Alan Averill, vocalist of the Irish metal band Primordial, who are also on Metal Blade. Alan like what he heard and sent the music to Metal Blade, and they ended up contacting us about working with them.
How exactly would you describe Visigoth’s sound? And by saying “exactly” I mean don’t simply answer heavy fuckin’ metal…
We are a heavy metal band that draws influences from traditional metal, epic heavy metal, NWOBHM, speed metal, a bit of traditional doom metal, and of course rock'n'roll. We try to strike a balance between tracks with epic atmospheres and tracks with more headbanging/rockin' atmospheres.
Starting talking about the songs, it’s hard for someone not to mention that almost everyone is above six minutes. This has to do with the fact that a truly epic song must “be like a trip” through different stages in order to reveal its true spirit and create the proper atmosphere?
Absolutely! My personal favorite metal songs are ones that feel like they're taking you on a journey. We have a tendency to write longer songs because that's how we naturally structure songs - it isn't particularly intentional, it just sort of happens that way (laughs).
The guitar riffs are impressive, but I think in a more classic metal way. Do you believe (like I do) that music wise you kind of approach the songs (for example “Creatures Of Desire”) in a more “in your face” attitude metal?
Some of them have a more rockin' approach for sure. Like I mentioned before, we try to strike a balance between the more 'in your face' heavy metal rockers and more epic-feeling heavy metal tracks. Some of them have that older riffing feeling, and some of them are more inspired by epic heavy metal.
I think there are some doom elements in your music like for example in “Mammoth Rider”. Is that right?
Absolutely! I worship bands like Candlemass and Solstice, so those influences do work their way into our music at times.
What is the story behind “Arcane Mists Of Prophecy”? Is this the most epic moment of the album or what?
It is definitely our longest song. It was actually the last song we wrote before entering the studio. We didn't plan on it being so long - in fact, when we finished writing it, we timed ourselves playing it, and we were very surprised by how long it was! (laughs) We decided to just keep it at that length and let it be the sort of the 'ambitious' track on the record.
The album cover is also brilliant and it really delivers what the listener is about to hear in the album. Was it a custom order or something you saw and liked?
It was custom-painted for the album by the legendary Kris Verwimp! You should know him from his work on album covers for Absu, Sear Bliss, Desaster, Skullview, Nocturnal, Dark Fortress, Deviser, Lord Belial, Moonsorrow, and a ton of other great bands. It's an incredible honor to have his artwork adorning the front cover of our album!
The reasons behind choosing to cover a Manilla Road song are quite obvious if someone listens to your album. But why did you choose “Necropolis” specifically?
We chose Necropolis because it is a song that a lot of people know and go crazy for in a live setting! We considered some more obscure Manilla Road tracks to cover, but we settled with Necropolis because it's such a great sing-along to play at live concerts.
Which do you think is the right approach when a band is doing a cover song? Do you plan to continue doing covers in the future?
It is our plan to include a cover song on each album in reverence of bands that are important to us or bands that have influenced our music. The right approach is simply to cover songs that you are very passionate about! It should sound identifiably like the original, but with some little flair of your own at the same time. Covers should always be treated with deep respect.
Could you share some information about the lyrics with us? Are they essential when it comes to that kind of music you play? What inspires you when it comes to that?
Fantasy themes are an integral part of Visigoth for me. I am mostly inspired by books, video games, and films - I grew up reading fantasy books and playing fantasy games and those aesthetic and narrative ideas are something that I deeply cherish. This carries into the lyrics I write for Visigoth because I like songs that take me on a journey, just like we discussed earlier in this interview. The lyrics carry through into that idea.
The production is somehow modern, but in an old fashion way (paradox I know)Who was responsible for that?
That would be Andy Patterson at Boar's Nest Studio! He did a great job. We simply told him that we wanted a full, heavy sound, but without any modern tomfoolery like digital drums or vocal pitch-correction. He found the balance nicely and we're very happy with the work he did! It is a purely organic album; you're hearing a real drum kit, you're hearing my actual voice with absolutely no auto-tune, you're hearing true tube amplifiers. This was very important to us, and Andy was careful to craft the sound the way we wanted.
I want now to tell me how you feel about the following bands…which I’m guessing influences a lot your sound…
Manilla Road is my favorite band. My introduction to them was during my sophomore year of high school. It was 2005, and Gates of Fire had recently been released. I purchased the album solely based on how much I loved the cover art - I had never heard a single song or even heard the name (I grew up in a relatively small town where there weren't really any metal people outside my small group of friends, so we had to find bands on our own most of the time). The moment I hit 'play' on the CD player at home, I knew I had found something truly special. It truly opened the gates (pun intended, heh) to true heavy metal for me. I of course was already a fan of classic bands such as Iron Maiden, Manowar, Helloween, and other obvious bands, but Manilla Road took it to a whole new level. Their music became an obsession for me. They were the first band I collected a complete discography from; the very first jacket I ever made had a huge Courts of Chaos back patch on it. I have driven hundreds of miles to see them play live. They forever changed the way I looked at heavy metal music. They are generally considered to be one of the best - if not the best - of American metal, as well as the reigning forefathers of epic heavy metal, and I wholeheartedly echo that assertion. Their music is unique in a way that makes them nearly impossible to imitate. Mark's vocals (and, by extension, Hellroadie's) are absolute perfection to my ears - I love that odd, nasally, throaty quality! Mark has such a singular, obtuse approach to his riffs that give them an otherworldly quality at times. Their lyrical themes epitomize epic heavy metal. They've simply never released a weak album. Call it fanboying, call it what you will, I don't care - I'm a die-hard fan and I'll be a 'Roadster until I die!
'Battle Hymns' was another one of the earliest true heavy metal albums that I ever listened to. I loved the epic sweep of the title track and Eric Adams's soaring, powerful vocals. Overall, however, 'Sign of the Hammer' is my favorite Manowar album. I love the production and the way the bass sounds on that record, and 'Thor (The Powerhead)', 'Mountains', and 'Guyana (Cult of the Damned)' rank among my very favorite Manowar tracks - these are truly mighty heavy metal anthems! I know that Quorthon always denied being a Manowar fan, but there is way too much Sign of the Hammer in mid-period Bathory's sound for me to believe that. (laughs) I bring this up because Bathory is one of the most important bands for me, and the elements that I love about Sign of the Hammer are also very present in Bathory's mid-period.
I am actually a huge Grand Magus fan. Starting with Wolf's Return, they have been releasing some of the most solid heavy metal of the past decade. J.B. Kristofferson's vocals are a huge influence on me - I spent a lot of time singing along to the Iron Will album in my car while commuting to school and work, and that actually really helped prepare me for singing in Visigoth! I absolutely love Grand Magus's ability to combine classic heavy metal attitude and riffing style with such a mighty and at times majestic atmosphere. They are true masters of riffcraft (that main riff on Iron Will is a monolithic testament to that - so goddamn good!), and I strongly feel that 'Hammer of the North' and 'The Hunt' were deeply underrated albums when they were released, at least here in the United States. I may be in the minority with this opinion, but I don't think there's a single throwaway track on 'Hammer of the North', it is just track after track of great riffs and killer vocal hooks. Their new album, 'Triumph and Power's is spectacular as well, leaning a bit more heavily on epic themes, which Grand Magus manages to fit seamlessly into their foundation of classic metal riffs and vocals. They are definitely one of my favourite bands, and they are a huge influence on Visigoth - which I imagine you must have picked up on since you're asking me about them. (laughs)
Bathory is simply one of the greatest bands of all time, no two ways about it. Bathory is one of the first metal bands I really got into, so there is a great deal of nostalgia involved with Quorthon's music for me - but it goes far deeper than that. Of course the black metal era is groundbreaking and essential to any heavy metal fanatic's collection. There is no denying the frenetic power of the thrashing, caustic assault of the infamous self-titled album and the grim lo-fi snarl of '...The Return', but 'Under the Sign of the Black Mark' really begins to define the black metal era of Quorthon's works for me. It has all of the trademark elements - the inhuman screams, the seething guitar sound - but it starts to incorporate the mighty feeling that would later define Bathory's mid-period, especially on tracks like 'Call from the Grave', '13 Candles', and particularly 'Enter the Eternal Fire'. In this way, 'Under the Sign of the Black Mark' is the ultimate culmination of Bathory's black metal era for me ('Blood Fire Death', which is one of my favourite Bathory albums, I'm not quite counting fully in the black metal era since it is sort of the 'transition' album between the black metal era and the epic/Viking metal era).
For me, the ultimate incarnation of Bathory is the mid-period material. Hammerheart, Twilight of the Gods, and Blood on Ice are perfection in terms of atmosphere and the combination of sweeping, majestic sounds with headbanging metal heaviness. The riffing style on Hammerheart and the way the drums compliment the guitar riffs is one of the most important stylistic elements in music for me. The way the songs simply seem to tower over you while you listen to them, as if the is simply too big to have ever possibly fit onto a CD or a record, that feeling is absolutely essential. Quorthon truly captured something unique, something that grips the soul and fills the heart with strength. I appreciate Hammerheart for its slightly more pugilistic approach - I mean that album is fucking heavy. The riffs on that record hit like a world-crushing hammer striking an anvil forged by gods! 'Twilight of the Gods' is also one of my favourite Bathory albums and I appreciate it for slightly different reasons. It drops some of the straightforward heaviness of Hammerheart in favour of a more majestic atmosphere, the interplay between the electric and acoustic guitars giving the record a sweeping, epic feeling. I also love how long the songs are, it really allows you to immerse yourself in the music.
'Blood on Ice' sees Quorthon entering a more straightforward heavy metal territory, and it was spectacular! Some of my favorite Bathory tracks are on that record, such as 'Woodwoman/The Lake', 'The Sword', 'The Stallion', 'Gods of Thunder, of Wind, and of Rain', and 'The Revenge of Blood on Ice'. Songs like those helped lay the foundation of the style of epic heavy metal as we know it today. These three albums - 'Hammerheart', 'Twilight of the Gods', and 'Blood on Ice' - are absolutely essential influences on the epic heavy metal genre. It simply would not be what it is without Quorthon's contributions. Don't get me wrong, I also absolutely love 'Nordland I & II', almost as much as the mid-period material, and the black metal era was spectacular and truly changed the landscape of metal forever, and even ‘Destroyer of Worlds’ has great songs on it! I just personally connect the most with the mid-period. I think a lot of the best currently-active epic heavy metal bands - Atlantean Kodex, Doomsword, Solstice, etc. - pull very heavily from Bathory, and I think it's this cross-genre appeal that helps make Quorthon's music so incredibly timeless.
One of the original epic heavy metal bands! Cirith Ungol is so spectacularly unique. The first time I heard Tim Baker's vocals, I could barely believe it. So insane, so out-there, yet it works perfectly and they couldn't have been fronted by anybody else! Cirith Ungol was actually one of the bands that truly got me into real heavy metal, and as such is one of the most important bands for me in general. I initially checked the band out because I am a big fan of Michael Whelan's artwork, so naturally his paintings gracing their album covers was very enticing for me. I blindly picked up a copy of 'King of the Dead' and immediately knew I had found something special. The cover art combined with the impossibly unique atmosphere, the epic feeling of the riffs, and the insane, ripping vocals of Tim Baker were such an experience for me! As a young, budding heavy metal fanatic, it was very integral for my appreciation of the true old sound, and they're one of my favorites to this day. They're one of those bands who truly has everything - a combination of great artwork and aesthetics, great music, and a certain mystique surrounding them. They are the genuine article, and a band that really defines the spirit of true heavy metal music, and they really helped me understand what this music is all about when I was first beginning my heavy metal journey.
Is there a band that was underrated, but still played a huge role in the creation of epic metal sound and never took the credits that they deserved?
That is an interesting question for somebody of my age to attempt to answer. I hadn't even been born yet when epic heavy metal was forming, so I can only go by what my ears tell me as opposed to any direct knowledge of who was influencing who. For me, a band that jumps to mind is Legend from New Haven, Connecticut. Their 1979 album 'Fröm the Fjörds' has elements that would end up being hallmarks of the epic heavy metal genre - fantasy imagery, storytelling lyrics, and a general atmosphere of antiquity. The song 'The Golden Bell' is a particularly poignant example of this with its mighty vocal harmonies and triumphant vocal lines coupled with lyrics of adventure and conquest. There's something very special and ahead-of-its-time about this album, and in a lot of ways it reminds me of a nascent-stages Manilla Road - I wouldn't be surprised if they are fans of this band!
There are a lot of great bands that could be named in answering this question, so I will leave it at this album. The original record is very rare, so - and I really hate having to say this - you may unfortunately have to settle with a bootleg copy, but it is definitely something worth tracking down.
Which bands inspired and influenced you the most?
As a band, we're all bringing different influences to the table. Since the beginning I have always wanted to sing in a band that plays in a similar style to Atlantean Kodex, Doomsword, Solstice, that epic heavy metal with a strong Bathory influence. I also wanted to include a heavy dose of influence from Twisted Tower Dire for the faster-paced side of things, as 'Crest of the Martyrs' is one of my all-time favourite albums as well, plus a bit of some of the more epic-feeling NWOBHM stuff like Elixir and 'Sultan's Ransom'-era Cloven Hoof, a healthy dose of fist-raising heavy metal such as Grand Magus, a touch of doom-infused heavy metal such as Argus and Old Season, and of course influences from Hellenic epic heavy metal such as Battleroar and Holy Martyr.
Obviously this is not at all what we ended up sounding like, but it is the type of band I was interested in starting. When I got in touch with Lee and Jamison (guitarists) about forming Visigoth, they were bringing other influences as well. Jamison and I are both heavily into NWOBHM bands, so we bonded over stuff like Saxon, Demon, Grim Reaper, Saracen, Dragonslayer, and the like. Lee, who does a lot of riffwriting, was wanting to implement his influences from bands such as Helloween, Manowar, and Grave Digger, which we are all fans of as well, so all of these different perspectives came together to start forming our sound. I definitely think we are still trying to figure out exactly what our niche is. Hopefully as we write new songs we will begin to form a more concisely developed style.
Which was the album that changed your life and why?
I have two answers for this, actually. The first was actually 'Aqualung' by Jethro Tull. I started playing the flute in a school ensemble in the 5th grade. My father, who always had classic rock playing in the house and brought me up jamming stuff like Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Blue Oyster Cult, Buffalo Springfield, Boston, and even some Black Sabbath, decided that he would take me to see Jethro Tull since they were playing in town and he thought I might think it was cool since I had started playing the flute. It was my first live rock'n'roll concert - I had never experienced music being played like that, with such passion and at such loud volumes. On the way out of the concert, my dad bought me my own copy of Aqualung, which I played on repeat in my room for weeks thereafter. It was the first album that I could really call my own, and I wore out the booklet reading the liner notes and lyrics.
The second life-changing album for me was 'Gates of Fire' by Manilla Road. It came out when I was a sophomore in high school, and it was the first Manilla Road album that I ever heard. I would consider it to be the album that is the most responsible for igniting my passion for the true old sound. I instantly became obsessed and began discovering a lot of classic heavy metal and epic heavy metal bands thanks to that album. It will forever hold a very special place in my heart, as will all of the Manilla Road albums.
What are your future plans? Are you going on a tour?
We are! We have a West Coast tour coming up, and a few other things that I cannot confirm here just yet. But we have some great things planned coming up!
What is like to be in a Visigoth live show?
Hopefully it feels like there is an atmosphere of passion for heavy metal and a unity between rock'n'roll diehards who are living in the moment and headbanging to the sound! It seems as though we usually get a great response from live audiences - playing live shows is really where we thrive and it has always been the primary focus for us as a band.
What goals have you set for the band? What you want to achieve with Visigoth?
Our primary goal is to simply continue to write and play heavy metal music for as long as we can. It is our passion, and it is something that we hope we can continue to do. Simply being able to tour and connect with other heavy metal die-hards is reward enough!
What do you think about the U.S. metal scene? Are there any new bands that worth to search for and listen to?
There are so many awesome bands coming out of the United States it would make your head spin! It's a great time to be listening to and playing heavy metal here right now. As for my recommendations, there would be far, far too many to list here if I just did 'any and all good bands from the United States', so I will stick with a concise list of local Utah bands and also USA bands that I either have been in contact with, have seen play live, or have noticed haven't had as much widespread international exposure. Some currently active bands I would recommend checking out would beEternal Champion (epic heavy metal), Argus (heavy/doom metal), Hyborian Steel (epic heavy metal), Chalice (heavy metal),Crypt Sermon (epic doom metal), Obsequiae (melodic black metal with medieval influences), Night Demon (classic style heavy metal), Sinister Realm (traditional heavy/doom metal), Winterlore (black metal), Ered Wethrin (epic black metal), Fiendlord (symphonic black metal), Deathblow (thrash metal), Odium Totus (black metal), Gravecode Nebula (death/black/funeral doom metal), The Obliterate Plague (death metal), Ifing (viking metal), Spectral Voice (death/doom metal), and dozens of others that I am surely forgetting right now. If I were to try and name them all this would go on for days and days, haha. The underground is teeming with amazing bands right now. It's awesome!
Thank you very much for your time and I hope to see you sometime soon in Greece. Last words from you...
In metal we trust, may your steel never rust! Up the hammers!