"Conquer & Divide" (Leviathan Records; 2002)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

I had a chance to see Joe Stump perform at the 2000 PowerMad festival, but had to leave the venue before Reign Of Terror hit the stage. At that time I said I'd catch 'em next time. Well, the next time never came Ė I don't think Stump tours a whole lot. But, lo and behold, two and a half years later "Conquer & Divide" ends up in my hands for proper review.

I was told by the power metal crowd at the 2000 PowerMad festival that Stump's Yngwie-ism were a bit much to take. And that would be true if you only listened to power metal without venturing into the wider reaches of hard rock and metalís dazzling array of styles.

What I like best about Joe Stump is his ability to bridge the gap between American shredders (Tony MacAlpine, Vinnie Moore, and David T. Chastain) and the European/Scandinavian guitar greats (Michael Schenker, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, and Uli Jon Roth). Stump seems equally comfortable blazing in either style. The first three tracks are up-tempo rockers that lean heavily on fantasy imagery while remaining firmly planted in the Yngwie school of shredding. Yet, there are tracks like "No Limit" which instantly remind the listener how important bands like U.F.O. were to the development of hard rock. And thatís just the first four tracks. The rest of the disc manages to work its way through varying themes with the instrumental "Sťance" being a particular highlight.

Vocalist Michael Vescera has worked with Loudness, Obsession, and Yngwie J. Malmsteen so it's no surprise to find him behind the mike on "Conquer & Divide." Vescera's voice is neither great nor bad, but it is pretty much what you want when listening to this shred-fest/power-metal hybrid.

As good as "Conquer & Divide" is, it probably has a limited audience. Shred-fans who don't mind a little power/true metal and power metal/true metal freaks who can dig shredding will all like Joe Stump's Reign Of Terror and "Conquer & Divide."

"Conquer & Divide" was produced by Michael Vescera.

Joe Stump's Reign Of Terror is Joe Stump on guitars, Michael Vescera on vocals, Jay Rigney on bass guitar, and Matt Scurfield on bass. Mats Olausson played keyboards as a session guest.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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