01. Prelude to Obliteration
03. Ashes of Lesser Men
04. Doomsday Clock
05. Inexhaustible Savagery
06. Totalitarian Sphere
09. Nuclear Justice
10. Kufra at Dusk
11. Resurrection in Black
12. Destroyer of Dreams
Instrumental music has undergone many transformations in the past few years, some for the better, some for the worst. The online “djent scene” alone has put a sour taste in the mouths of many. Conquering Dystopia is not only proof that instrumental is far from dead, but thriving, and undoubtedly fresh. Employing a line up that ranges from the aforementioned djent scene to death metal and shred legends, Conquering Dystopia covers every base and then some. Every song composed as a full on collaboration between Jeff Loomis and Keith Merrow, given the full level of human feel by the inclusion of Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse on bass and Alex Rudinger of The Faceless. The choice to work with a studio like Audiohammer is readily apparent in the overall quality of the album, showing just how much of a difference a professional studio can offer, from the quality of Rudinger’s drums to the powerful mesh between the guitars and bass.
Conquering Dystopia wastes no time assaulting the listener on ‘Prelude to Obliteration,’ featuring some of the album’s most finger-mangling riffs and lead work, with one of the most over-the-top solos on the album starting just a minute in. There’s no shaking the undeniable feeling that this could have been a Keith Merrow solo release, however, the in and out appearances of Jeff Loomis’ distinct lead work pulls the listener right back to the reality of the teamwork involved. Conquering Dystopia can be a fatiguing listen to some, though the inclusion of acoustic interludes breaks the pace in a calculated kind of way, normally leading into a track doubly as ferocious as the one preceding the interlude. ‘Kufra At Dusk’, for example, gives the listener a look into Merrow’s well-documented death metal influence, recalling a sound very much in tow with Demigod-era Behemoth.
Each song showcases both Merrow’s and Loomis’ strengths on their instrument. Unlike Loomis’ solo releases, Conquering Dystopia acts less as a backing track for his solos and more as pieces of music written out of sheer love for the style. Loomis’ lead work is an apparent draw for many, though others will find solace in the riffing not being underplayed for the sake of leads. Album closer, ‘Destroyer of Dreams’, acts as a perfect example—a seven minute monster that features the fewest number of leads, though some of the most memorable, with the strongest riffing on the entire album.
Although it could be said this is the best thing Loomis has been a part of since the absolutely monumental This Godless Endeavor, the same can’t be said about his lead work. Each solo is thoughtfully composed and carefully executed in each song, the memorability of the leads pales in comparison to Nevermore‘s apex work. It is apparent that this album was not written as another “Loomis only” release, but a collaboration. Though the album is fully instrumental, the band leaves room as if vocals were once on the table during the planning stages. Nevertheless, the choice to stay instrumental helps keep the focus on the extraordinary musical assault from all directions. Some potential fans may still be bored by the lack of vocal work, but fans of Merrow and Loomis will not be displeased at all.
Instrumental music is not dead. It’s not dying, and it’s far from stale. The duo of Loomis and Merrow have struck a balance between violent and artistic lead work and hooking riffs that few could ever wish to achieve. A carefully crafted collaboration that grabs hold of the listener and refuses to let them go until the ride, with all of its vicious twists and turns is over. Conquering Dystopia is likely to be a huge player in the metal world in the years to come, whether it’s as an act or an album.
Conquering Dystopia’s Conquering Dystopia gets…