Deep in the cracks of Wilmington beats the heart of an untamed monster. That monster is none other than Salvación. A five-member power-metal militia, their only intention is to raise again the banners of heavy-metal for headbangers everywhere. They will play Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern on Friday, February 27.
The brainchild of drummer and founder Carlos Denogan Salvacion formed in 2009, along with former guitarist Nick Sponsel. “I knew exactly what sort of band I wanted to be in,” Denogan says. “I got together with Nick and showed him all the stuff I wanted us to sound like.”
Denogan recruited Justin Neil on bass, who, along with Sponsel, provided vocals. Their first appearances were at The Rock Shop in Fayetteville, NC, and the now-defunct Lucky’s in Wilmington; the set list consisted of half originals and half covers from iconic bands like Scorpions, Rainbow and UFO.
“Heavy metal to me represents staying youthful, having a good time and celebrating life,” Denogan says. “We definitely enjoy excess and over-indulgence, whether it be by means of speed, power, volume, content, and attitude or all of the above. But there’s a communal aspect to it that’s extremely important. Everyone is invited to the party! Heavy metal and rock ‘n’ roll is our religion and we do our best to spread its message, which is simply put: ‘Rock hard and ride free.’”
The group released their first record, “Going to Hell,” in 2010, which featured Neil on bass and Sponsel on guitar. This record has more of a hard-rock edge to it than their other material. Salvación’s second release, “Way More Unstoppable” (2011), is when they came into their own with heavier material.
Last year they released their latest effort, “God Gold and Glory,” which features the current lineup: Victor Marriott (bass), Dan Todd (guitar), Elliot Madre (vocals), and Chris Millard (guitar). It took over a year to complete the concept record, which focuses on Hernan Cortez and the conquest of Mexico.
“When the promotion cycle ended for ‘Way More Unstoppable,’ I knew that the next album was going to be a concept record about Hernan Cortez,” Denogan describes. “I could really identify with his relentless determination in pursuit of his goals. I drew a lot of parallels of being in a band and attempting to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. I’m not praising the atrocities that occurred as a result of the Spanish conquests, but I was enthralled by the motivation and tenacity it took for these individual’s dreams to come to fruition.”
This record was more than just an album; it was a milestone for everything the band had endured. “The music had been around and in various stages from the formation of the band and had accumulated over the years,” Denogan declares. “We completed and refined the arrangements at that time. Thematically, it came together because it tied in with our name, the imagery we used and the ethos behind the band.”
Ian Millard, who produced all of Salvación’s records, as well as a slew of other local, well-known Wilmington bands, was crucial to the process. Denogan says,“He is practically a member of the band, and we have tracked with him all over Wilmington.” Rather than being contacted by Millard, Salvacion sought him out after hearing his production of Thunderlip’s “The Prophecy.” “After recording with him, it was very clear that his contributions were very important,” Denogan continues.
For a lot of musicians, the writing process consists mostly of jam sessions to hash out ideas. Sometimes entire songs are written in this fashion. “Some of my fondest memories of being in this band have just been killer jam sessions<” Denogan tells. In Salvación’s case, what they deem proper song material goes through a strenuous process.
“When it comes to writing new jams we do our best to ensure the song isn’t contrived and is sincere,” Denogan details. “However, at the end of the day, we’re going for a very specific vibe, so the methods that we have to implement to achieve that ‘sound’ are fairly clear cut.”
This involves combing through written material, being very selective about what works and what doesn’t. “We try to mix up our influences within the songs as well,” Denogan adds. “For example, the song ‘Let Us Prey’ on our second album begins with a riff straight out of the Toni Lommi playbook, changes gears into a UFO-inspired rocker, then goes into a Thin Lizzy guitar harmony section, and closes out with a classic KISS style chorus.”
The band brings the same energy to live shows, too. Madre’s vocals have a natural range to them, and in a live setting, pitch is not an issue. He also has that frontman flair to him, dominating the stage as if he were Dio or Bruce Dickinson. The songs offer a good mixture of solos, great tone and a tight rhythm section.
Salvación works hard to keep the metal soul alive. There has been a recent resurgence of metal music, especially in Wilmington. Salvación’s members also play with other bands. Denogan sits in with White Tiger and the Bed of Roses, while other Salvación members share ranks with Children of the Reptile, Mortal Man and Thunderlip, amongst others.
“It always blows my mind when I think about how many great heavy metal bands have come out of Wilmington,” Denogan says. “I’m excited to see what some newer bands are gonna do, like Avast and Red Scare. As sad as it is to say, the old guard will be gone within our lifetime,” Denogan laments. Someone has to fly the flag and ‘keep defending the faith,’ right?”
Luckily, Reggie’s continues to be a hub for metalheads. The tavern recently opened Reggie’s Records in the adjacent building. Denogen helped out and still lends his expertise to the metal section.
Salvación’s show at Reggie’s this Friday will be quite a party: Not only is the band re-releasing “Way More Unstoppable” on vinyl, they will also be filming the performance for a music video. Local acts The Seduction and Children of the Reptile will be opening.
Salvación, The Seduction
Openers: Children of the Reptile
Reggie’s 42nd St. Tavern
1415 S 42nd St.
Friday, February 27, 9 p.m.