Album Review: Conquest - "The War We Rage"

"Thrash /THraSH/ (verb) - to beat violently and repeatedly". This definition fits the band Conquest and their newest album, "The War We Rage", perfectly. Thrash metal as a genre has been around now for more than 30 years. To be defined as a thrash band requires you to stay true to certain compositional elements which were developed "back in the day" and repeated time and time again. These are generally low-register, "chugging" guitars, double bass drumming, high-register guitar solos and screaming vocals. Conquest is truly the definition of thrash.

Similar to blues music, the basic song structure of thrash remains the same. It's up to the individual artist to add his or her own unique perspective to the mix and, hopefully, create something new and exciting. Think of Stevie Ray, BB King or Buddy Guy. They played blues music in the traditional style but added their own flavor to it which is what separated them from the countless artists playing "traditional" blues. So it is with thrash bands.

Most modern thrash bands have been raised on the music of Metallica, Exodus, Testament, etc. The best bands take all of those influences and combine them with a bit of their own attitude. It's damn near impossible to not notice the influence of previous metal bands in any new release from a modern thrash metal band.

The vocals sound like Priest, the guitars sound like Dimebag, the bass sounds like Cliff Burton, is that a Zach Wilde harmonic? And so it goes with "The War We Rage".

Vocalist Derrick Brumley clearly has some Halford in him. It's especially hard not to notice some similarities when the opening track "Coming With Vengeance" has the word "vengeance" in it. It's hard not to think "Screaming for Vengeance". He's a little bit Rob Halford, he's a little bit Bobby Blitz.

You know what else is fun? The addition of spoken word intros. "Never Forget" starts with a young girl reciting the pledge of allegiance. "Live Free or Die" begins with an oration from President Reagan. There was a time when this was found more frequently on metal albums. Call me old fashioned but I like it. It helps set the stage and it's a nice juxtaposition between songs.

I was particularly excited to see there was a cover of the Charlie Daniels classic "Long Haired Country Boy" included on this album. It's a decent cover. It sounds, well, like a thrash version of a country song (and I'll bet it makes a terrific encore at the live show).

Of the 13 tracks that make up "The War We Rage", most are straight-forward, head-banging, blistering, thrash metal fare but there are a couple of songs that seem a bit out of place. For example, "Fall From Grace" sounds more like Judas Priest than the last Judas Priest album did. And "Turn Me Away" is a heartfelt, slower song that just doesn't fit the feel of the rest of the album.

Overall, Conquest does a nice job with "The War We Rage". The foursome of Derrick Brumley, Mike Crook, Rob Boyer and Tim Fleetwood are clearly enjoying themselves. The guitars rock, the bass thumps, the drums pound and the vocals shred. It's great to hear some good old, American thrash metal played with passion and without apology. I'm not sure that they've achieved the level of originality necessary to be listed among the greats yet but Conquest lives up to the textbook definition of thrash and they will rock you.

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