I am not going to lie, Silent Knight’s Conquer & Command is an album that I had honestly been wanting to hear pretty much since I learnt about it. See, I happened to stumble across the band last year and listened to their debut, Masterplan. I personally found it a fairly enjoyable record that, unfortunately, failed to grab me purely due to then-vocalist Zoran Cunjak’s vocals not being to my taste (no disrespect intended to the guy as a person, obviously, I just didn’t like his vocals much!). So I didn’t bother paying much attention to the band after that: I assumed that their line up was going to be stable and that, because I wasn’t able to get past the vocals, I would do myself more favours by leaving them to their own devices.
And then I randomly decided to check up on them and found they had a new vocalist. And my interest was piqued, to say the least, especially when I noticed the band had done a live cover of Helloween’s ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’. My expectations raised, I decided to give them another shot. Was it worth the effort?
…When saying “YES!” is an understatement, you know you’ve impressed me. Conquer & Command pretty much reminded me of why I love power metal so much in one album. Though it isn’t a flawless release, I would still feel no hesitation to recommend this album to pretty much ANY fan of power metal.
First of all, the songwriting on Command & Conquer is excellent, managing to take the more aggressive thrash-influenced edge of US power metal and combining it with the highly melodic edge of European power metal in a way which I can best describe as “Iced Earth with Michael Kiske on vocals” (although Stephan Dietrich and Michael Gremio also spring to mind for vocalists). While you could probably dock points off the band for not really having nailed down their own unique sound if you wanted to (and I will admit that some of the songs do end up sounding a bit samey), I can’t say it’s a bad combination in the slightest and, even at worst, it’s a fun enough listen if you like power metal in that vein of things. Even the cover of Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’, which will probably raise a few eyebrows on first glance, is still a legitimately fun listen due to the band rewriting the song to fit in with their style of music, a very brave decision to make when it comes to a song as iconic as this one and one that I feel pays off, although I wouldn’t say that it’s going to replace the original Europe song for anyone.
The performances on the record are all very good. I can’t say they are among the best in the power metal genre, but the band definitely knows how to play their instruments well and they all show that very well across the whole record. I think the highlight on the instrument front is probably the guitars, as they manage to be suitably aggressive while still maintaining the melodic edge expected from a band influenced by European power metal. Vocalist Jesse Oz (formerly of Soul Legion) is also a very solid vocalist who definitely sounds like the perfect guy to be singing for a power metal band due to his VERY high tenor voice and ability to hit some insanely high notes. He does overdo the focus on the high notes occasionally (while it WAS a good showcase for his high notes, I think ‘The Strike of the Sword‘ could have done without the section of Jesse singing mostly in falsetto), but, if you like power metal vocals, then Jesse is probably going to win over a lot of people interested in the band.
The production of the record, unfortunately, is where I have to make my complaints, and it all comes down to one major issue for me: the mastering. I’ve kind of accepted that I’m basically holding a one-man crusade against overly loud mastering by this point, but the mastering on this record is a bit much for what I’d find acceptable, as it just makes the record painful on the ears on louder volumes. I also don’t recall hearing Cameron Daw’s bass on the record much, so a slightly better bass presence might not be an entirely unwarranted suggestion for improvement. That said, not counting those comments, the record sounds absolutely crushing, so whoever produced the album was on the right track with everything except for the mastering!
Ultimately, I have to say that Conquer & Command is an excellent power metal record that, while still having a few problems and not really bringing anything new to the table, mostly serves as a just under 46 minutes long summery of just why power metal, when done well, is still a truly enjoyable listen. I don’t usually start up a mini crusade to encourage more notice of a band, but I implore ANYONE who is a power metal fan to check out this album. Seriously, it is worth the effort!
Conquer & Command was released independently on the 2nd of October. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes. Conquer & Command is available from http://www.silentknightband.bigcartel.com