Sometimes, it’s good to dip a toe or even a whole foot outside the comfort zone. The Modern Metal sound of the US/UK/Canadian collective of Conquer Divide certainly pushed me into a zone which I am less familiar with than usual. But that’s not a bad thing, and by the conclusion of Slow Burn, I have to say that the band had warmed on me despite some traits that I usually struggle with.
Conquer Divide – Slow Burn (Mascot Records)
Release Date: 8 September 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
Possibly the main reason for this was the thumping single Newheaven. It’s got huge riffs, a hook that could net you Moby Dick, and an anthemic feel that is symptomatic of the Metalcore genre but which rarely hits the right buttons for me.
Let’s explore this single for a moment, for there is a message behind it. “Newheaven was born out of the idea that you’ll never be satisfied with what you have if you don’t define your expectations,” the band explain.
“We got together in Atlanta with Johnny Andrews for this one, and he’s a musical mad scientist. We played with religious metaphors, although the song is not about religion. You throw your whole life into something, and then you finally reach the pinnacle and get to pull the proverbial curtain back, but it’s not what you expected at all. So now you need a new high to chase. We did crowd-sourced gang vocals on this one, and it was fun to make that come together.”
But any album must have more to it than a single, and in Slow Burn, Conquer Divide have done the unthinkable. They’ve made me almost like Metalcore.
Whether it is the soaring cleans of Kiarely Taylor, who I assume is backed by the ferocious throat raging of bassist Janel Duarte [cue frantic edits at my lack of research!], or the piledriving riffing of Isabel Johnson and Kristen Sturgis, whose guitar work is crushing; something resonated!
The band have taken the proverbial bull by the horns in their subject matter. They take social unrest head-on in System Failure, something that we can all acknowledge, whilst the powerful lyrics of Welcome2paradise tackle environmental destruction.
It’s Pressure that throws the band’s vulnerability into the mix, with the ethereal vocals countered by some aggressive screams, something I’ll never understand in the genre. But it works on a punishingly ferocious song all the same.
Conquer Divide are comfortable following the Metalcore blueprint but add in the Synthcore that appears to be part of the current fashion. The layered synths don’t, in my opinion, always work, but here, Conquer Divide seem to have pitched the balance about right.
They intertwine them within the songs, utilising them to build tension and atmosphere, as they do on System Failure, which builds with a dynamism that works far better than it should.
It’s the band’s exposing of their emotions that makes this a heartfelt, deep, and meaningful album. There’s nothing to say once you hear the lyrics of The Invisible (Playing w/ Fire). Focusing on intensely personal revelations of abuse, this is a song that makes you draw breath. And listen. Intently.
What makes Conquer Divide a little different is their open, almost pop style, which provides a fine merger with the driving guitars and Samantha Landa’s piledriving drums.
And whilst I’ll admit that Metalcore is still a genre I’ll pass by on most occasions, there is something about Conquer Divide and Slow Burn that makes me want to come back, if only for this album.
To pre-order Conquer Divide – Slow Burn – Visit Lnk.to/ConquerDivide.