Conquest of Steel

Of Fire & Steel

Written by: EW on 23/03/2014 10:21:48

Conquest of Steel are dead, long live Conquest of Steel! It has become that since signing on to review Britain's "finest metal warriors" fourth LP, "Of Fire & Steel", they have announced their split, following the departure of lead guitarist James Clarke. Will death see an acceleration of their status? I doubt it, for while one cannot doubt their commitment to the cause over a career harking back to the dawn of the new millennium, they have never carried the air of a band threatening to make any serious waves on the international scene. Britain's "finest metal warriors" more for the lack of competition in the swords and sorcery, patch jacket bequeathed style of the kind Germany possesses in the hundreds, rather than for true metal greatness. It is to Germany, or Greece, where one has learned to look in recent times for straight up non-retro heavy metal and because of this it is perhaps a pity they were not more appreciated here in Britain.

It is telling my sole live experience with the Bradford based act was at a pub venue in north London I have never otherwise heard of for gigs, way back in 2004. I'd like to think their name might have appeared on a bill in the 300 or so metal gigs I've attended since then, but alas not. Why would this be? Well on the basis of "Of Fire & Steel" we get all the basic ingredients of a power/heavy metal record schooled on the sound of Iron Maiden, Dream Evil & Helloween, but without any magic touches in songwriting or production. Like the vast majority of true heavy metal acts that will ever be formed Conquest of Steel score highly in their obvious love for the genre but crushingly low in the innovation or imagination stakes. This starts from the truly horrible, terrible cover adorning the record and continues through the album's ten tracks of which none have incited an interest in me to press the 'Back' button to re-listen through my numerous spins. Compared to my two favourite true metal records of last year, Argus' "Beyond the Martyrs" and Atlantean Kodex's "The White Goddess", it is the plain mediocrity that does this. So many negative words I know, as we are not dealing with a bad album - lord knows I've reviewed some of those of late - but I make no apologies for setting higher standards than most internet reviews appear to.

As is often the case in this genre it is vocalist Dan Durrant most worthy of comment. His clean, inoffensive delivery peaks with greater passion than any real gravitas but he is certainly capable of augmenting his delivery with the lead guitar melodies of Clarke, as best heard in "Mountain = Power", to very good effect. Durrant's presence is great throughout - he delivers a lot of lines which highlights a lack of variation in his delivery but the smile I can hear beneath it all is a big positive. It is just as well Durrant is so active because aside from Clarke contributing a healthy number of colourful solos, the musicianship displays little of the ability required for success in this game. By the time "Here Comes the Metal" emerges I feel they've effectively given up such is the paucity of the bridging in its' middle eight, while some of the breaks elsewhere are little better. Scales derived from the Iron Maiden Handbook of Life are the predominant feature heard - opener "All Men Must Die" wastes little time in declaring this - interspersed with the fist-in-the-air glory so loved by everyone's favourite delusionals, Manowar. Try "Metal All The Time" for that, and, oh yeh, note the subject matter. Not to be taken too seriously.

The accompanying promo sheet is wonderfully honest of their intentions: "simple 4 minute headbangers designed to aid the enjoyment of beer and the destruction of brain cells". Conquest of Steel do this with a resounding success thus, I suppose, confirming their existence as a successful one. There was never an intention to reinvent the wheel or amaze hard-to-please curmudgeons like myself, just a passion for balls-to-the-wall metal. I definitely know all about that. "Of Fire & Steel" is a fitting exit note for a band that lived, and died gloriously, in the shadows.


Download: Moutain = Power, Horned Viper
For The Fans Of: Primitai, Iron Maiden, Dream Evil
Listen: Facebook

Release date 02.12.2013

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