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A Sapphire of the Power Metal Underground - 80%

in_the_sign_of_metal, December 19th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2005, CD, Independent

This album has quite an appealing ratio of positive aspects to negative, and if just a few tweaks were made before release this could have easily made it into the 90 percent range. All the elements of a solid power metal release are present: predictable yet satisfying drumming, chunky riffs that meander steadily, a complete absence of noticeable bass, fluffy keyboards and a helium fueled singer. But this last aspect, as the title led you to believe, is where things get tricky.

Technically, he's very good at keeping the melodies, but his tone is very nasal and sometimes loses itself in so much vibrato on the prolonged notes that it starts to get on one's nerves. For examples of this, check out the track "Ways of Vice," where the singer wastes no time in letting you know what you're in for. At least we know his range is impressive, as both the notes he holds and the much fainter backing vocals demonstrate. Even with the iffy performance on his part, the melodies still stick and I found that song, along with "Warbeast" to come quick to my mind for weeks after a listen to this record.

As far as the guitars go, they dish out some nice riffs, with a crunchy tone that is perfectly matched with the atmosphere and album art the band went for. The lead's are crystal clear and pristine too, cutting through the mix well. There are some downright crushing moments here by power metal standards as well, most notably on the aforementioned "Warbeast," which earned itself its own mini intro midway through the album. "The Road to Nowhere" even features some Alexi Laiho style riff work and shredding. Thanks to guitar work like that paired with great melodies, this album has its fair share of shining moments.

Unfortunately, these are almost balanced out by the less than gleaming songs. For some reason the band decided more than one slow song was a good idea, and it certainly wasn't. I could barely bring myself to give the songs "Don't Tell Me Farewell," "Flying in the Rain" and "Sunset" attention after a preliminary listening. "Sunset" is the best of those ballads, but still, it was not a good move, and I'd be happy to give this album a rating in the high 80s if it were not for their inclusion.

Let's end this review positively, as I truly do have some nostalgic love for this record. It was one of my first underground finds in the realm of power metal and still remains a worthy listen all these years later. Disregarding the duds, this album kills with tracks like "My Aim," "the Road to Nowhere" and "The Ways of Vice" leading the charge. A worthwhile enough listen, and any power metal fan should not leave this proverbial stone unturned.

Solid considering it's all but a complete revamp. - 82%

hells_unicorn, March 22nd, 2011

About 5 years to the date of the release of their utterly riveting debut, the band that was Conquest had fallen apart completely and was wholly reformed. While this is not a wholly unheard of thing in power metal, it usually is accompanied by a complete change in direction that results in the band’s signature sound being lost. But in this band’s case, something a bit different happened, something that embodies the paradoxical words of Lemmy Kilmister’s lyrical contribution to Ozzy Osborne’s “No More Tears”, saying something to the effect of “Nothing has changed, nothing’s the same”. While it can be said that this is still the same band that created “Endless Power”, it also seems that W. Angel, the sole founding member of this band still in congress, has elected to allow the changes in the winds of the scene to reshape his desired sound.

“Frozen Sky” can best be summed up as a post-Sonata Arctica album, in the sense that it sees Conquest’s style reinterpreted through the keyboard heavy, lighter vocal template of said band, along with a few other similar sounding Finnish outfits such as Celesty and Dreamtale. A full time keyboardist in Lady Dea has come into the fold, and with it a dense set of keyboard ambiences (most of them orchestral) which have lightened the rugged speed metal tendencies of the band. The new vocalist Alex G.L. has also proven to be something of a lightening factor in the band’s sound, possessing a much lighter and thinner vocal character than that of his predecessor, and actually even somewhat tinny even in comparison to Tony Kakko’s soaring tenor. In essence, he sounds like a more fluttery version of Timo Koltipelto, but without the same range capabilities, but his performance is adequate, if a little anti-climactic in comparison to Jenick Lenkoff.

The biggest area where this differs with “Endless Power” is that, in spite of staying pretty close to the same general riffing character and having about as many solos, this album is a lot mellower and ballad rich. There are 3 full fledged ballads on here in “Flying In The Rain”, “Don’t Tell Me Farewell” and “Sunset”, all of them extremely keyboard heavy and all but perfectly tailored as b-side material for Sonata Arctica’s “Silence”. Ironically enough, these are the songs where Alex’s vocals shine the best, as he is naturally geared towards a softer and more heartfelt sound. But even on some of the faster songs such as “Temple Of Fear” and “The Road To Nowhere”, things are highly restrained and almost equally as focused on mid-paced grooves with dense keyboard textures. It gets so utterly atmospheric at times that, withal the speed drumming and crunchier riffing style, this album can’t help but sound remarkably similar to “Winterheart’s Guild”.

The bulk of the remaining contents of this ode to coldness is where the identity of the band shines through the newer conventions employed. “My Aim” and “Frozen Sky” turn on the afterburners something wicked, and showcase a vocal display that, while maybe not as epic sounding as what was heard on “I’ve Seen You In My Dreams” or “Destiny”, is quite solid and appropriate to the more keyboard drenched aesthetic. “Warbeast” is almost a heavier, more solemn answer to Stratovarius’ “Hunting High And Low”, possessing a similar chorus, but a much more guitar oriented nature and about twice the aggression. But the absolute highlight of the album, and perhaps the one area where the full epic potential of the band is realized, is “The Ways Of Vice”. This thing just masterfully combines a sped up gallop riff that is largely along the lines of “Children Of The Grave” and loads it up with orchestral and organ sounds to create a template of multitudes of lustful souls being blown around the sky by a mighty winter storm.

Sure, this isn’t the same bludgeoning display of speed and fury as its predecessor. Yes, this is an album that goes a bit heavy on the ballads. But nonetheless, this is a solid slab of power metal, especially for a largely lackluster year for the genre in 2005. Anyone who really goes for the Swedish/Finnish approach of keyboard heavy, yet still fast and somewhat riff happy melodic metal should go for this. Not a perfect release by any standard, but definitely a worthy album by a very worthy yet still largely unknown band.

Kind of disappointing, but still likeable - 69%

NecroFile, April 30th, 2010

Ukrainian power metal band Conquest's first album was great, but lacked variety. Their second album has variety, but lacks greatness.

From what I gather, frontman W Angel rebuilt the band's entire lineup from scratch on this one. The band has a bio on their site and it's just a long wall of text to the effect of "guitarist x joined, bassist y left, vocalist y was fired, guitarist x left, bassist y joined again" etc. This band has gone through enough lineup changes to make Helloween seem stable.

There's a lot more keyboards this time around, and a lot more ballads, too. Every second song is a ballad, it seems. Even the faster songs like "The Road to Nowhere" have excessive downtempo sections which tend to rob them on their energy. On another bitching note, their new singer sucks. He sounds like a sheep in pain.

Things are still mostly good, though. "The Way of Vice" is dense and atmospheric, and is fast and slow at the same time. Think that's a contradiction? Remember Helloween's "The Dark Ride", how the tempo was quite quick but the atmosphere was so dark it suggested a song far slower? Same deal here. Great stuff. "My Aim", "The Temple of Fear", and "The Road to Nowhere" are a bit worse, but still have lots of catchy melodies and interesting textures. Out of the ballads, I guess "Flying in the Rain" is my favorite, though they're all pretty boring, to be honest. Ballads are not what this band does well.

If you don't have much time, at least skip ahead to the last three songs. "Before the War" is a beautiful guitar solo instrumental. W Angel has a keen sense of melody, and a good lead tone. "Warbeast" is an excellent power metal song, with a chorus similar to Stratovarius' "Eagleheart". The title track is probably the greatest thing Conquest has recorded yet. It has a fantastic keyboard melody, a nice set of speed riffs, and a climactic, epic chorus. Sadly, the vocals do drag the song down.

The band does get better from here. There's a bit of filler, and some unrealised elements, but it's not bad.