CONQUEST OF STEEL inhabits their own world not inhibited by any type or genre of musical influence other than the music of IRON MAIDEN and MANOWAR and the entire NWOBHM movement from the early 1980’s. That they have managed to get to album three is praise enough and that they decide to make the albatross around the neck possibility of the concept album will see them either gain new momentum or stumble along two steps forward, one step back style.
I’ve actually really enjoyed the raucous old school Metal of CONQUEST OF STEEL through the bands first two records. So it’s hardly original but it’s played with a sincerity and conviction and totally beholden to an old Metal head like me.
So if you’re holding out for another short sharp Metal attack of ‘’Hammer & Fist’’ prepare for a slight pulling in of the reins as ‘’Storm Sword (Rise Of The Dread Queen)’’ reduces the tempo and brisk Metal riffing to be replaced with a more Progressive approach. I guess the band are hoping to ape their biggest influence, the mighty MAIDEN, by going down the Prog route. However, concept albums and Prog influenced concept albums must always be approached with utmost caution.
As far as the story goes it involves the usual fare – war, prophecy, love, hate and betrayal and starts rather well. The obligatory fanfare opening makes way to the bustling drive of ‘’Conquest Through Fire And Steel" and the melodic hum of ‘’The Prophecy’’. MAIDEN influence to the max throughout, it’s just what the CONQUEST OF STEEL doctor ordered. The guitar picks and flies, the bass rumbles like Sir Harry’s and the drums bounce the rhythm with a water tight conviction. Like a few of the songs a superb acoustic start lulls in a Folk style invoking the Melodic side to CONQUEST OF STEEL all is looking good. Acoustic opening aside the ‘’Scourge Of The Land’’ lets in the mid-tempo feel to the record and I am not sure if CONQUEST OF STEEL is best suited for this meandering, at times lurching Metal. ‘’A People Betrayed’’ doesn’t fair much better. It sounds as if they’ve run out of ideas already and the vocals of Dan Durrant really begin to irritate.
Ironically, it’s the addition of female vocals and the lone acoustic guitar that saves this third record from becoming mundane, and in particular ‘’Unholy Union’’ and the heady pace of ‘’Even The Gods May Be Overthrown’’ starts to replace some Metal faith that was beginning to falter.
Let's face it, this album is no ‘’Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’’, more like an ‘’X-Factor’’. A few choice moments but lacking a bit of direction and that killer tune. Time may that tell ‘’Storm Sword (Rise Of The Dread Queen)’’ was an underground sensation but I for one would like to see the band just get back to playing straight ahead Traditional Heavy Metal. A thing they can do with ease and energy.
(Online November 2, 2009)