By Brian Tucker
Local heavy metal band Salvación has seen its share of lineup changes but that didn’t slow them down. Currently it’s Carlos Denogean on drums, Nick Sponsel on bass and vocals, and Dan Todd on Guitar, playing together for the first time as a power trio.
They recently released God, Gold and Glory, a new album finding Salvación with a slightly different sound and a concept album focusing on Hernán Cortés, a Spanish conquistadorDenogean learned about during a college course. In telling Cortés’ story, it also about the history of the conquest of Mexico, making for wild heavy metal with a classic sound and soaring vocals.
Salvación play an album release show at Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern this Saturday with Demon Eye. The new album is available in all formats, and can be found at shows and Gravity Records.
Was the new album recorded as a band?
Denogean: After our second album had run its course Dan decided he needed a break. Unfortunately, soon after we lost our bass player as well. Nick and I knew we needed to push forward despite this and the only way we could was to make a new record. So the album was written and arranged by just us.
During the recording process we decided to ask some friends from our scene to come to the studio and help give the songs some flavor. It was only going to be one or two at first but it was so much fun that we kept asking people, and they kept coming in and killing it.
How much did band member turnover hamper you?
Denogean: There has been a lot of turnover. Surprisingly it has not had as much impact as you would think. Nick and I had a very strong idea of what Salvación was going to be from the beginning. Not to understate the contributions by everyone who has been in the band, but we know what we want to sound like. We’ve also never let anyone keep us from moving forward with our goal
How did you become friends and what albums did you share an affinity for early on?
Denogean: Nick and I first started playing together over eleven years ago while still in high school in Fayetteville. We didn’t go to the same school but I was introduced to him through a mutual friend. He was one of the first people I ever “jammed” with. We even played our first show together in my parent’s garage and pretty much been playing together ever since. We definitely shared a strong affinity for Iron Maiden, even back then. We were still discovering a lot of music and developing our taste but one album that we definitely bonded over when we were young was Iced Earth’s Night of The Stormrider.
Is the idea to also move around in the heavy metal genre?
Denogean: I have always believed there was ample room to explore within the genre of heavy metal while remaining within its parameters. That’s what is most appealing to me about playing this kind of music. There are plenty of ways to reflect any sort of mood, and a multitude of methods to give color to any arrangement. That said, our mission statement has always been to celebrate and pay tribute to the traditions of the classic heavy metal bands we admire most.
The new album sounds more serious than the last two which could be looser, more party-minded.
Denogean: As far as content on the new record it was written during what felt like a dark period for Nick and I. Things felt very stagnant for us and we were determined to make the best record we could and get it out there. I believe it definitely reflects the drive and mentality we had. It’s not necessarily more serious though, because we were pretty serious about partying too!
What was the mindset in making God, Gold and Glory?
Denogean: The mindset was actually no different from the first two, which was that we need to make the best heavy metal record we possibly can. It may seem as though we deviated but really we’ve just improved at our craft. Honestly, a lot of the material on this record has been around a long time. It’s important for me to note here that none of it was left over material, it was just never complete.
Something about the arrangements of some songs didn’t seem whole, but once we started to put this record together they immediately showed they served a greater purpose. “Fortune” for example was the first song ever written for Salvación. I was just never content with the lyrics. Once they were re-written the song took on a whole new meaning in all aspects. The only thing different about this record is that Nick and I wrote everything on it. It really is just the culmination of everything we have worked towards thus far.
How did the album come to focus on Hernán Cortés?
Denogean: Salvación has been around for five years now and we’ve used conquistador imagery since the beginning. The epiphany moment to do a concept album however came during a lecture I had in a class at Cape Fear Community College as we were making our second album. It was during American History and a brief overview of the Spanish Conquests. The professor started with the phrase God, Gold and Glory written on the board and the ensuing lecture struck a chord with me.
My dad tried sharing his interest and knowledge on the subject before that, but for some reason it didn’t really click until then. I soon realized how very little the subject had been explored by my favorite metal bands, at least to the extent which I thought it deserved, and I became obsessed. Once it came time to make a new record I knew exactly what would help set this record apart from the others. The theme is so heavy and epic, it really felt like we were doing precisely what we were meant to.
Is there strong identification with Cortés’ history and passion?
Denogean: I couldn’t help but identify with Cortés. I drew so many parallels between his campaign and the challenges of being in a band. Essentially it’s a story about a few men enduring hardships, being put up against seemingly insurmountable odds, willing to sacrifice everything to attain a goal, and ultimately achieving it. It’s like Lord of the Rings but cooler because it actually happened.
It’s very important for me to state I am not condoning the atrocities that took place, but I do believe that Cortés and his men honestly felt justified. Nevertheless I was fascinated by the dichotomy of his character. To some he’s a brave and noble explorer who brought light to an uncivilized world. To many more he was a greedy, power hungry murderer. Either way, what took place completely shaped the rest of history, and being of Hispanic descent made it all the more fascinating to me.
Are you generally fans of concept albums?
Denogean: I’m a fan of a lot of concept albums, but in the beginning I never thought we would end up making one. Until the Cortés idea came about I was pretty content with the standard heavy metal themes. It was very important to me that it didn’t feel like we were reading to the listener out of a history book. We wanted room for interpretation. We also wanted each track to be enjoyable on its own, but when they were pieced together it made a larger picture.
The listener doesn’t necessarily have to be interested in the history of the conquest of Mexico to enjoy the album, but if you happen to be, it’s there. Writing the concept album actually made writing lyrics for me easier since it was focused on a central theme, and it made picking and arranging the tracks easier for us since it had to reflect a part of the story we were attempting to relate. Honestly, the hardest part was leaving out so much that I wanted to write about for the sake of keeping it concise.
How did Nick get those crazy good vocals?
Denogean: Nick actually had no interest in singing in the beginning, he just sort of rose to the occasion out of necessity. We knew we wanted to play classic heavy metal but for some reason it seems heavy metal vocalists who could actually sing just disappeared after the 80s. So we just did what we always do, which is do the best that we can with what we’ve got. As it turns out he’s pretty good! Funny enough, Nick just wanted to play guitar in Salvación but now he sings and plays bass.
Dan Todd is back with the band. How has he added to the mix?
Denogean: It’s great having Dan back. We’ve always had a lot of chemistry playing together. He’s a phenomenal guitar player and he brings a certain level of presence and professionalism that really completes the band. We share all the same influences and we don’t really have to try too hard to convey ideas to one another.
There’s a video for “Stroke of Luck.” Is anyone involved in videography?
Denogean: Nick actually edited all of our videos so far. I conveyed to him my ideas, we fleshed out the concept, and he put it together in a simple editing program. He hasn’t studied videography, but like all obstacles we’ve encountered we just find away around them. We’re working on yet another video at the moment. It’s for the song “Gambler’s Throw” off the new album and it features some cool imagery that references our first album.