Conquest of Steel- Hammer & Fist (2007)
A bit less barroom-style rocking, and much more epically adventurous than their debut, Conquest of Steel’s sophomore release Hammer & Fist continues to excite metal fans with calls to battle for the heart and soul of true heavy metal. The guitar is more polished, while still retaining the roughness necessary to pull off music rooted in the stylings of North American Power Metal. The most significant musical difference compared to their first album is that now Conquest of Steel focus much more on highly melodic and soaring lead work that give off a more fantasy-inspired aura.
The themes of this album range from Vikings, as heard in “Warrior’s Guide,” to pirates, as explored in “Under the Sign (of the Skull and Crossbones).” In other words, every song is about battle and killing, many of them being about fighting for metal by the divine providence of the metal gods, such as the cases with “Born in Hell” and “May Your Blade Never Dull.” Choosing prime cuts is challenging, because every song is invigorating. The only exception is the somewhat tame “Taste the Metal” which lacks the fantastical intensity of the other tracks, sounding a bit like a leftover from when writing their debut.
What makes this album truly stand out is that the songwriting breaks away from verse-chorus clichés, and used a lot of creative arrangements and transitions to unexpected riffs that come in at the perfect time. Take for example the riff that comes in about half-way through “Warrior’s Guide,” which is really the whole reason to listen to the song. Everything before that riff is essentially just teasing and building up to it, and there’s something very captivating about songs that are crafted like that.
This album has earned five stars. For fans of classic North American Power Metal such as Jag Panzer, Helstar and of course Manowar, Hammer & Fist is well worth the investment. Don’t be fooled by their British heritage. Conquest of Steel sound little like New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and much more like the cult bands from the early to mid-1980s United States.
-John Mahon III