The past couple of years, virtuoso guitar player Joe Stump has been concentrating on releasing vocal albums under the name (Joe Stump's) The Reign of Terror. With Michael Vescera (one of the best vocalists Yngwie Malmsteen ever let go) he performs mostly up-tempo rockers with his trademark guitar work (with ingredients of Malmsteen, Hendrix, and no doubt a few others).

When you listen to "Conquer & Divide", you cannot help but think that you're listening to roughly the same song played several times, with, granted, pretty insane guitar stuff happening whenever there are no vocals going on. Apart from two slow-tempo pretty cool instrumentals, only a few songs stand out: "Mark of the Devil" (it's just a lot more catchy than the rest, better as a whole, and features some grade A+ keyboard work by guest keyboard dude Mats Olausson (ex-Malmsteen)), "Bite the Bullet" (a heavy metal thumper) and "The Meaning" (a slower, longer track).

For me personally, Joe Stump's instrumental albums hold more appeal. The Reign of Terror doesn't suck or anything, however I would very much welcome another instrumental album just about now. As far as I'm concerned, nothing beats his "Night of the Living Shred" solo album...



Written June 2003


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