Death Dealer – Conquered Lands (Album Review)

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The undead pharaoh lays his worldwide claim.

Despite his auspicious tenure with Manowar having ended more than 30 years ago, metal veteran and shred-machine Ross The Boss has been making quite a ruckus over the past decade or so, both with a project bearing his own stage name and also a veritable juggernaut of a super group dubbed Death Dealer. There has often been a tendency cited (in some circles) that bands of this nature often prove to be a let-down given the credentials that are brought to the table by the members from their previous works, but this California-based speed/power beast is wholly untouched by any inflation in expectation. Having originally formed this band with a number of prominent 80s American metal elites such as fellow former Manowar alumni Kenny “Rhino” Edwards on drums and long time Lizzy Borden bassist Mike Davis rounding out the rhythm section, along with glass-shattering Halford disciple Sean Peck at the helm and former Dungeon axe-wielder Stu Marshall to fill out the arrangement, delivering an over-the-top, fist to the gut metallic debut in 2013’s “War Master.

As with any project of this caliber, lineup stability is often an issue, and the subsequent years following their 2013 breakout saw both Rhino and Davis exit the fold. But being the tenacious mastermind that he is, Ross found more than apt replacements in former Into Eternity kit man Steve Bolognese (who’s performance on “The Incurable Tragedy” was one for the ages), and more recently Symphony X bassist Mike LePond, whom ushers in a raunchier sound than that of Davis and further amplifies this outfit’s established affinity with classic Manowar. Nevertheless, while there is definitely as strong Kings Of Metal vibe to their format at present, the cumulative stylistic character of “Conquered Lands,” this band’s 3rd studio LP, runs more along the lines of where heavy metal was in the twilight of its 80s heyday. To the younger crowd or those otherwise uninitiated in this subject, the sound being hearkened to is along the lines of the quasi-thrashing mayhem that Judas Priest’s “Painkiller,” U.D.O.’s “Timebomb” and Anthem’s “Domestic Booty” brought to the table just before grunge took over the airwaves.

Few things could be more metal than the depiction of a demon-like pharaoh leading a charge of ghoulish minions into the land of Egypt, and this album translates the intensity and vividness of its cover art into a storm of sonic fire. The opening crusher “Sorcerer Supreme” ushers itself in with a correspondingly eastern-tinged introduction with harmonies and lead guitar gymnastics cast to the four winds, ultimately landing on a high octane, speed metal rollercoaster of a riff set and rhythm section battery. The basic tone and tenor of this song proves largely kinetic, as Ross and Stu cut heads in a manner comparable to a more technically exaggerated version of Tipton and Downing, yet there is a sense of nuance and development at work here that breaks with the rugged simplicity of the early 90s. This is further explored on the equally fast yet more hook-driven speed romp “Every Nation” and the riff happy cruiser “The Heretic Has Returned”, which sees a more hook-driven power metal approach in line with the likes of Primal Fear and breaks a bit from the more stylized feel of the more distant past.

“Conquered Lands” album artwork

The only thing more impressive than this album’s sheer energy is that it is near relentless, as the tempo only occasionally slows and the intensity sees a lot more flow than it does ebbs. Things do end up slowing down a bit for the fist-pounding groove machine of a title song “Conquered Lands”, but a brilliant display of vocal prowess out of Peck turns a fairly straight up metal anthem with a slight Black Sabbath tinge into something that could have been recorded during the latter days of said band with Ronnie Dio had they kicked up the tempo a tad. Likewise, the Accept-inspired banger “Running With The Wolves” scales things back to a more rocking groove, but a brilliant mixture of noodling bass work and vocals sets it apart from older examples of this mode of song put out in the mid-80s. But the most gripping curveball in what is otherwise a full on dive into speed metal lunacy is the deceptive half-ballad “Beauty And The Blood”, which begins on a haunting clean guitar note with a dreary narration along for the exposition, only to explode into one of the most insanely fast segments recorded by a power metal outfit, and then proceeds through a number of jarring shifts in tempo and feel.

The question isn’t really who will go for this album, but more so who wouldn’t, given that it has speed-infused masterpiece written all over it. It successfully bridges the divide between the heavier end of the power metal spectrum occupied by the old German speed metal guard and the USPM crowd with the more melodic strain that became popular in the late 90s thanks to the efforts of Paragon and Iron Savior. It’s prime cut for those who like their Judas Priest refined to its most explosive grade, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see those who took to the more Malmsteen-tinged power metal that came out of northern Europe in the late 90s to go for this, largely due to the insane lead guitar display put on by Stu Marshall, obviously reminiscing upon his glory days with Dungeon during the peak of the millennial power metal wave. It might be rare to catch a leather clad biker reciting olden incantations in an alchemist’s laboratory in today’s world, but in the one that Death Dealer occupies, all bets are off and all speaker work best at full volume.

Released by: Steel Cartel Records
Released Date: November 13th, 2020.
Genre: Heavy Power Metal

 Musicians:

  • Stu Marshall / Guitars
  • Ross the Boss / Guitars
  • Sean Peck / Vocals
  • Steve Bolognese / Drums
  • Mike LePond / Bass

“Conquered Lands” Tracklisting:

  1. Sorcerer Supreme
  2. Every Nation
  3. Beauty and the Blood
  4. Running with the Wolves
  5. The Heretic Has Returned
  6. Conquered Lands
  7. Hail to the King
  8. Slay or Be Slain
  9. Faith Under Fire
  10.  22 Gone
  11. Born to Bear the Crown

9.1 Excellent

Defying the expectation of super groups being less than the sum of their parts, this California-based power/speed metal colossus rolls across the competition like a freight train and rediscovers that fast and ultra-heavy sound that was all the rage in the early 1990s.

  • Musicianship 9
  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9
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