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Conquest of Steel - "Storm Sword - Rise of the Dread Queen" (CD)

Conquest of Steel - "Storm Sword - Rise of the Dread Queen" CD cover image

"Storm Sword - Rise of the Dread Queen" track listing:

1. The Final Battle (1:07)
2. Conquest Through Fire and Steel (5:40)
3. The Prophecy (5:34)
4. Scourge of the Land (4:50)
5. A People Betrayed (5:17)
6. Unholy Union (4:19)
7. The Hangman's Smile (2:15)
8. Spirit of War (3:48)
9. Jocasta Rising (2:28)
10. Even The Gods May Be Overthrown (3:08)
11. Raise Your Fists (4:41)
12. Lament of the Steel (4:00)
13. An Empress Is Born (2:04)
14. The Prophecy Reprise (2:12)

Reviewed by on August 7, 2009

"Though the idea of writing a concept album about Jocasta, minus the expected Oedipus references, is unique and had potential, 'Storm Sword' didn’t manage to pull off the feat very well."

When I first read the info pack that came with Conquest of Steel’s cd, I mistakenly thought it said "Storm Sword" was recorded between the hours of dawn and midnight, meaning in a single day. Even though this wasn’t the case, as I listened to the album, it seemed more and more obvious that this was a hurried process, since the first couple tracks were solid, but the sound quickly deteriorated over time. And with the exception of the closer, which has a cantata type big finish, the rest of the songs after track four just aren’t inspiring enough to hear again.

The first thing you’ll notice about the songs on "Storm Sword" is that for power metal, they’re pretty short. And as the album progresses, the songs get shorter and shorter. While some may say that’s a good thing, in the case of Conquest of Steel it seems more a case that they ran out of things to say. Considering the topic for this concept album is the story of Laius and Jocasta, mother of Oedipus, this is even more difficult to believe.

As for the music, it is predominantly slow to mid-tempo power metal, with a few obligatory overly long guitar solos, most noticeable in "Conquest Through Fire and Steel," but there are also a few elements of doom, acoustic, and 80’s metal. "Scourge of the Land" tries for a Dio type sound, once you get past the nearly country acoustic guitar and what sounds like a harpsichord, but the tempo slows down to a snail’s pace, and even the death growls can’t revive it.

The intro, "The Final Battle," may only be slightly more than a minute, but instrumentally it’s the best track. It’s a dark tune with a cinematic feel, and the orchestral accompaniment of violin and low range horns draw you in. The quick transition into the follow-up power metal track adds a nice touch. As expected, the bass is nearly non-existent throughout the album, and like most power metal, the focus is on a repetitive, pulsing drum and spiraling guitar. Fortunately Chris Mills’ drum work is pretty solid throughout, even if the tempo has a tendency to drag, because his efforts are the glue that holds this album together.

The vocals throughout are pretty weak, with Dan Durrant’s voice many times going flat, especially when he is accompanied by guest singer Debbie Lee Tomson, and with the wide array of female vocalists to choose from, one has to wonder why Tomson was chosen. Though her lines in "The Prophecy" are intended to have a beautiful but haunting quality, they miss the mark by a long shot. In fact, the only time Durrant and Tomson seem to work well together is in the final track, "The Prophecy Reprise." Though this last song is better than the last 25 minutes you sat through, it’s not enough to make you any more fond of the album.

Though the idea of writing a concept album about Jocasta, minus the expected Oedipus references, is unique and had potential, "Storm Sword" didn’t manage to pull off the feat very well. Unless you’re a diehard power metal fan, this installment in mythology is probably one you can skip.

Highs: Intro is a good, cinematic track, and Chris Mills' drum work is steady and solid.

Lows: Tempo drags, and lead and backup vocals, when put together, are nearly disastrous.

Bottom line: An interesting concept based on the story of Jocasta, but a musical journey that slowly unravels into obscurity.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)