The days of Savannah being an internationally recognized center of gravity for heavy metal may be gone, but exciting metal bands still continue to occasionally spawn from our swampy city and garner deserved attention.
Savannah’s Vatican have been steadily building their fan base through heavy touring and a string of intense and powerful EPs including 2017’s “Ache of Eternity.” The band recently signed with 1126 Records (home of I Am, and Serpent of Gnosis) and released their debut album, “Sole Impulse” on November 15. The album is Vatican’s ultimate statement — a hammering blend of metal-core chugs, heart-stopping blast beats, and death metal growls that positions them as a metal band to pay attention to on the national stage.Get Savannah arts and culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and Dine newsletters
“It was really hard to make,” said drummer Josian Soto-Ramos. “It felt like it took a long time to finally find our footing and the direction we wanted to go musically. We wrote 25-or-30 song ideas before we got to where we are with the record now. We went through a lot of trials with that before we came to what we felt was the best representation of our music right now.”
On the EPs, Vatican were heavily influenced by the metal-core they were listening to at the time, but with every band member now contributing to the songwriting, their own personalities shape the music on “Sole Impulse” into something unique that stands out from the crowded metal scene. Soto-Ramos was a late addition to the band and his interest in Swedish death metal mixes well with Vatican’s other elements of metal-core, hard-core, and death metal (if those distinctions mean anything to you).
“A lot of the stuff was written before I came into the band, so now some of my flavors are on this record,” said Soto-Ramos.
Vatican increased their profile thanks to a series of music videos for the tracks “Ex Nihilo,” “Sole Impulse,” and especially, “31 Staples.” “We did that one near Savannah,” said Soto-Ramos. “That was right before we got signed…We needed a visual to go with our single, so in a clutch moment we partnered up with our friend who went to SCAD.”
The song is about a devastating car accident that nearly killed vocalist Jonathan Whittle when he was younger, and required him to re-learn all of his motor skills. The video portrays Whittle walking through his childhood home in a lucid dream and ends with him shaving his head and revealing the landscape of scars that remain on his skull from the accident.
The video for “Ex Nihilo” is less thought-provoking, but is still a personal reflection of the band. Soto-Ramos and his bandmates are die-hard video game enthusiasts, and there is even footage of their fans brandishing Nintendo Switches at one of their shows (Mario in the mosh-pit?). The video is comprised of footage from many of Vatican’s favorite games. “It was sort of a gameplay mash-up and I think people like that video the most,” said Soto-Ramos. “That was one of those videos where we wanted to show that part of ourselves and it really resonated with people.”
“Sole Impulse” is Vatican’s best sounding release, thanks to it being recorded in a professional studio. Previous singles and EPs were rehearsed and recorded in a storage unit on Indian Street near River Street. “We recorded our first single, ‘31 Staples’, with our friend Patrick Schneider, who we actually recorded the whole record with in Atlanta,” explained Soto-Ramos. “Then Jamie King, who did Between the Buried and Me, mixed and mastered it. But, before that we did everything in the storage unit.”
“It was really hard. A lot of metal sound bouncing off of metal.”
Vatican are currently on a U.S. tour and plan to have a Savannah show and album launch sometime early in the new year, so look out for that because they don’t get to play here often. “Sol Impulse” is available now on 1126 Records.