Nerdy but well-executed themes are nothing new for the Salt Lake City legion known as Visigoth; previous releases have seen the band tackle The Witcher, Dungeons and Dragons, and other fantasy-heavy topics in a bold, triumphant fusion of European and American-style heavy metal. But this time around, the band is being guided by the Flame, as their latest EP, Bells of Awakening, takes very obvious inspiration from the original Dark Souls, a dark fantasy action-RPG that is notorious for its macabre lore and intense difficulty. Visigoth hasn’t had any trouble being badass in the past, but a theme like this certainly doesn’t hurt.
The first track, titled “Fireseeker,” describes the overall plot of Dark Souls by means of killer guitar work and one of the band’s catchiest choruses to date. It serves as an incredibly strong and attention-grabbing introduction to the EP, fully immersing the listener in the drama and melancholy of the story it seeks to tell. As always, Jake Rogers’ commanding vocals come booming out across the track to maintain Visigoth’s high energy levels, even when the tempo takes a dip.
“Fireseeker” also demonstrates a noticeable improvement in Visigoth’s songwriting ability and balance. A track that’s too short will leave you unsatisfied and craving for more, and a track that’s too long will leave you tired and bored of a riff or chorus that may have captivated you at the start. I find that Visigoth’s older work especially suffers from the latter issue; there’s always been a sense of great power being channeled into their music, but it’s channeled aimlessly and left to meander rather than follow a tight framework. “Fireseeker” has an incredible chorus and the band isn’t afraid to flaunt it, but this time around, Visigoth seems to have found that sweet spot and ended the track at the most natural point possible. Truly, they’ve conquered the disparity between light and dark, life and death, and brief and boring.
The second (and final) track, “Abysswalker,” doesn’t try to balance out Bells of Awakening or provide a contrast of any kind. Instead, it carries the momentum from “Fireseeker” and actually takes that intensity even further: there’s faster riffs, more exaggerated vocal lines, and more prominent drumming, all mixed in with a thick aura of desperation and folly as that same beautiful, operatic voice details the tragedy of the knight Artorias. This track is definitely up there with “Mammoth Rider” and “Traitor’s Gate” for me personally, in that it feels so immensely powerful that the listener actually gets emotionally invested in the lyrics, as simplified as they may be. “Abysswalker” prominently features Visigoth’s US heavy metal influences and rolls them out in a masterful construction of emotion and old school fist-pumping fun. I’d also like to point out that several of the lyrics from this track are taken directly from cut content in the Dark Souls: Artorias of the Abyss DLC, which I find to be a very cool touch.
As a Visigoth fan who wasn’t too impressed with Conqueror’s Oath, I have to say that I am extremely satisfied with how this EP came out. It embodies all of Visigoth’s strong suits, from the catchy choruses to the captivating vocals, with no shortage of the revenge-laced fantasy worship that the band seems to love so very much. There’s a clear sense of purpose in each song’s structure as well, one that leaves plenty of room for showing off, but employed with enough restraint to keep Bells of Awakening endlessly replayable. So go forth, chosen undead: when thou clicketh the play button on Bells of Awakening, the fate of the heavy metal fan thou shalt know.