Released by: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: October 27th, 2023
Doro Pesch – vocals
Luca Princiotta – guitars
Bas Maas – guitars
Nick Douglas – bass
Johnny Dee – drums
1. Children of the Dawn
2. Fire in the Sky
3. Living After Midnight
4. All For You
5. Lean Mean Rock Machine
6. I Will Prevail
7. Bond Unending
8. Time for Justice
9. Fels in der Brandung
10. Love Breaks Chains
11. Drive Me Wild
13. Best in Me
14. Heavenly Creatures
15. Total Eclipse of the Heart
1. Warlocks and Witches
2. Horns Up High
3. True Metal Maniacs
4. Heart in Pain
5. The Four Horsemen
For over 40 years Doro Pesch has been widely regarded as the high priestess of metal. From her years fronting Warlock in the 1980s, through to her transition to a solo artiste, she’s consistently delivered the goods – both by touring and recording – to her legion of loyal fans the world over.
Her 14th solo album, “Conqueress – Forever Strong and Proud” is aptly named, and exemplifies her uncompromising spirit and passion for metal.
Doro’s voice is still fantastic, and the guitar work (be it riffs, licks, or solos) is insanely good. The bass lines are simple and solid and the drums are creative with plenty of snappy fills and double-bass pedaling. Every track on “Conqueress” is hard-edged, and there are some complementing keyboards and sound effects to add flavor to the metal.
That said, the album is a bit of a mixed bag: there are some definite killer tracks, but unfortunately, some fillers too, and one or two that are downright head-scratchers.
First off, the killers. “Children of the Dawn” is simply a great song to start things off, with anthemic choral voices leading into some gorgeous punching riffs. Doro’s voice has a slight rawness to it but it’s full of fire, and the chillingly dark backing vocals in the chorus continue as the song fades out. I’m not a fan of fade-outs (see below!) but it works here. “Fire in the Sky” follows, blasting forth like the proverbial bullet. It’s full of relentless aggression and wild licks and leaves you breathless by the end. Perhaps the best track on the album is “I Will Prevail”, which is loaded with fabulous riffing from start to finish. The superb chorus and the angry chant of “I will prevail!” after the solo help makes this a fantastic song. “Killers” is an understatement though, because these songs annihilate!
“Love Breaks Chains” is another stellar track. A mid-tempo rocker which includes a smattering of piano/keyboards and more crunching riffs, the feel is moody, and the solo is more melodic than most on the album. Also worthy of mention is “Fels in der Brandung”. Whilst not one of the best tracks, it’s a nice change because it’s a gentler song, keyboard-driven, where Doro shows her softer side. An interesting twist is that the lyrics switch between English in the verses and German in the chorus. And in the chorus (if Google has translated correctly!) she declares her love to be, “My rock, my hero, my refuge, my heart.” There are several tracks that I see as fillers, for example, “Time for Justice”, “Rise”, “Drive Me Wild” and “Heavenly Creatures”. None of these stand out, despite Doro’s formidable vocals and her band’s musical talents.
And then there’s the head-scratchers. I’m kind of mystified as to why Doro has included 2 covers on an album that’s already loaded with tracks. “Living After Midnight” is one of the all-time metal classics, so no new take on it could ever come close to the original. Doro’s version is certainly a decent one, but even with guest vocalist (and metal god) Rob Halford, it still doesn’t make sense. Neither does the final track, a cover of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. Once more featuring Halford, other than it being much heavier than the original, and Doro’s voice fitting it surprisingly well, it just seems out of place and is a weak closer.
There is one further song featuring a guest vocalist. Broliers’ front-man Sammy Amara shares vocal duties on “Bond Unending”, but his vocals are unimpressive, and I’d have preferred a little more harmony between them. It’s a shame as it’s not a bad song apart from that.
Lyrically the songs aren’t bad, but I must mention that the words to “Lean Mean Rock Machine” (a song about being in love with, er, her motorbike) are decidedly cringe-making: “I’ve got this bike, it turns me on, when I hear the sound I feel so strong . . . it’s a lean, mean, rock machine, the baddest one you’ve ever seen.” But it’s still a strong, fun track, and thankfully it’s redeemed by the fabulous drumming and the police-chase sound effects.
There is a version of the album that contains 5 bonus tracks, but to be honest, if I’d bought it I’d feel a bit short-changed, as the first three are not up to much. Two of them are worth a mention though: “Heart in Pain” is a dark, weighty, pounding number, and I love the super-tight riffs and stops – an excellent song. And finally “The Four Horsemen”, which is just terrific. Borderline epic at 7 minutes and 11 seconds, it starts at a frenetic pace but incorporates several nice time changes that keep it fresh. If only this could have been the closer on the album instead of just a bonus track!
My real gripe though is the surprising number of songs that just fade out (7 including one of the bonus tracks). To me this shows a lack of creativity and can be seen as an easy way out; I was disappointed by this and would have liked there to have been a little more originality with how the songs end.
So, does “Conqueress” actually conquer? I’m sure established fans will love it, but it just doesn’t do it for me, and there are not enough stand-out tracks to elevate it to epic status. I have to wonder though, if it was trimmed down to 10 or 11 songs of the same calibre as the opener, how great it could be.
Having said that, the album shows beyond doubt that – at almost 60 – Doro is showing no signs of slowing down, and she can produce some scorching material that is up there with the very best in metal.
Reviewed by: Brian Parker