Fans are often split over the relevance of cover or tribute albums, but they have become more popular in recent years. And why not? I think most would agree that the best metal is classic metal. Many such tribute albums are hit or miss, so creating one always presents its challenges. Unlike original material, which is open to interpretation, cover albums always have naysayers and critics ready to pounce. When you are a regional, independent band, releasing an album of covers is an even ballsier move, but St. Louis based metal horde, Conquest were up to the task. The band, which features frontman Derrick Brumley, drummer Tim Fleetwood, guitarist Mike Crook, and bassist Rob Boyer, see Under the Influence as a road trip back through their 30 plus years of performing and in homage to the heroes that drive their passion for heavy music. With nearly three decades and seven albums of their own under their collective belts, these are no Johnny-come-latelies.
Conquest waste no time testing their mettle, tackling a double shot of Judas Priest classics with Metal Gods” and “The Ripper”. Anytime one has to wrestle with emulating the mighty Rob Halford, the job is made doubly difficult. Brumley does a fantastic job on “Metal Gods” manhandling the vocals. The song itself is beefier than the original and a powerful start to the record. Brumley does not have quite the same impact on “The Ripper”. While he does it justice, he misses certain nuances that make the song distinctive, in particular on the first verse. That said, the band overall do a formidable job.
Next up the band takes a swing at the early Iron Maiden classic, “Wrathchild”. Some excellent guitar flourishes add depth. Once again, the track has more muscle than the original and Brumley is imposing handling Paul Di’Anno’s parts. Likewise, Conquest‘s take on Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is crushing.
The band did a soft release of Under the Influence shortly before the death of the legendary Lemmy Kilmister, which makes their version of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” timely and emotionally powerful. Their rendition is a chugging juggernaut, though given the recent passing of Lemmy, a bit difficult to listen to just yet.
The guys take aim at “Anti-Social”, an old Trust tune made popular by Anthrax. Conquest’s version has more bite than the Anthrax version, as does their turn on UFO’s masterpiece, “Lights Out”. While no one has a voice quite like Phil Mogg, Brumley does a solid job, and the bass work by Boyer rumbles like a charging beast. Some of the best fretwork and harmony vocals shine here.
Perhaps the big surprise on the record is Conquest’s choice to cover Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”. The heavier delivery and Brumley’s gritty vocal attack make the song more explosive. A risky choice, but it works. The guys remain in hair metal mode for “Red Hot” from Mötley Crüe’s debut record.
The album closes out with covers of Pantera’s “Cowboys from Hell” and Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”. They handle Pantera with requisite brutality, from the crunch of Dime’s guitar tone to Anselmo’s menacing vocals. Fleetwood is thunderous here. The guys pulverize on “Children of the Grave”, with hostile guitar work from Brumley and Martin. and Boyer’s cranium-rattling bass line.
Regardless of what the elitists and critiques may say about independent bands doing cover albums, Conquest created Under the Influence for themselves and their loyal fans, first and foremost. Fans of the genre should enjoy much of the record, and certain tracks rise to the promise of the originals. In all it is a well done and faithful slab of classic hard rock and metal, tributized by a band that has earned its stripes in the seedy clubs and small venues where the attitude of heavy rock was birthed.