Conquerors – Stormbringer


The resurgent blackened thrash taking hold in the underground looks to the pre-thrash attitude and transgression of Venom for inspiration. Artists like Bewitcher, Hellripper and Stälker adopt the satanic imagery, punk-infused attitude and chaotic noise of speed metal and play it with the technique of Slayer and Metallica. It works as a modern combination thanks mainly to the better technology and musicianship of today’s players. But nobody told French trio, Conquerors, about this. Instead, they aim to make speed metal more brutal yet as raw as a Metal Blade Records LP from 1984.

Undoubtedly, Conquerors are experts at creating a nasty racket. They also exude attitude and care nothing for modern production techniques. Opener and title track, ‘Stormbringer’ could be from Voivod’s War and Pain debut back in the day. The guitar tone is dry and inhumane in its decibel levels, perhaps even too powerful for the amplifier belching out the distorted chords. You’ll love it if you want raw, no-frills metal, yet you might also detect an Immortal/Marduk influence among the sonic chaos. There is method behind the madness and a good level of technical ability. Listen to the harsh attack of ‘World Eater’ and ask if this could be a new sub-genre of brutal speed metal. The thudding bass and ferocious fry screams suggest Conquerors are on to something new with their blend of thrash, pentatonic rock and black metal. Guitarist and vocalist, Morty, loves his trills as much as his alt-picking rhythms and plays with the extravagance of a NWOBHM six-stringer from 1980. The fact that two of the trio wear Bathory and Hellhammer t-shirts in the band’s official promo pic tells you everything you need to know.

Sometimes they get the thrash gallop just right, like on ‘The Crimson Crown’, which is monstrous in its audio assault and precise in its violent fury. Other times they appear to be out of sync, just like the debut Possessed album from 1985. But what’s wrong with going off meter in the age of over-produced Pro-Tools records that sound more asinine than a socialist economics professor venerating the works of Karl Marx? Conquerors want their music to be ugly, devoid of melody, and rebellious. ‘Crushing the Faith’ is a sop to the headbangers, but ‘The Fallen’ takes the two-beat drum groove of early Mayhem and replicates the guitar tone of Celtic Frost. This is extreme music as envisaged by the artists on the Noise Records roster in 1985.

With a determination to return metal to a more primitive setting, Conquerors succumb to a few pitfalls. The vocal screams use little aggression beyond a superficial rasp and would be difficult to perform live with any real vigour. Likewise, the guitar amp settings are drier than a Kenyan cabbage field on the likes of ‘Siege Breaker’ and ‘Execration’s Path’. Once you’ve heard four songs, you’ve heard them all.

But Stormbringer never tires or relents, and the listener cannot complain that the music is bland. Conquerors offer a unique interpretation of speed metal and show that this sloppiest of genres can be much heavier with a modern interpretation and a more brutal edge.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 21/05/2021

Record Label: Music-Records

Standout tracks: World Eater, Crushing the Faith, The Fallen

Suggested Further Listening: Voivod – War and Pain (1984), Immortal – All Shall Fall (2009), Possessed – Seven Churches (1985)