CONQUEST – “When I Quit Getting Better, I’ll Quit”

June 19, 2024, a month ago

By Nick Balazs

feature heavy metal conquest

CONQUEST – “When I Quit Getting Better, I’ll Quit”

“I’m at the point in life, man, I just do what we want to do and people like it – cool, if they don’t sorry.” So is the take it or leave it approach from Conquest frontman Derrick Brumley, a stance that’s been earned through 35 years of no-frills heavy metal.

Paradox is their latest album of muscled metal, out now through Dark Star Records. Featuring 16 tracks, Brumley wasn’t worried about the length or the amount of songs present. 

“I try to take the best record we could make,” Brumley states. “And people who like heavy metal, who appreciate heavy metal without a particular agenda; I think they appreciate the record and that’s what I’m after.”

Paradox’s best feature is the live sound to it, and the endearing bass presence that’s not lost in the mix.

“Rob (Boyer, bassist) will appreciate that,” Brumley laughs. “When making this record in today’s climate, what records sound like, some of my pet peeves are the way heavy metal is mixed today. It’s all compressed. The bass guitar is a low tone, everybody’s the same. It’s on ‘10’ right in your face and then with the vocals, it’s happy vocals, angry chorus, flip that over back and forth a few times and the bass player could be doing a thousand notes and you’d never know it. When we made this record – as I do on all my records – I just kind of felt I was going to really focus on production because I wanted what you said to occur. I wanted it to have a live, raw feel to that went, ‘oh, that’s Mike’s (Crook) guitar. Oh, that’s Derrick’s guitar.’”

He goes on about his thoughts on production, “I’m not kidding man, when making ‘World Of Hate’, where Lee (Skyles) was on the drum kit and I was over there playing air drums and he was playing drums; we were just jamming it out. We created this vibe with it and that’s what music needs. I think a lot of today’s music is so formulated. We wanted this record to be clean and I don’t know what you want to call it. Some people call it an ‘older style mix.’ I just think it’s clarity.”

Onto the songs themselves, there is one song that sticks out from the rest due to it’s happy vibe and that’s “Love Amplified”.

“So me and Mike go back and forth, prep work for hooks, making guitar hooks. He came over with this thing – we’ll label them – it’s kind of a Priest feel, or this is a Maiden feel, or this is a Sabbath feel. And he came over and he goes, ‘oh, that’s a Van Halen thing in the front.’ And we were just messing around with it. That’s one thing we don’t do. We don’t put parameters on us. We don’t go, ‘oh, we can’t do that. It’s too happy.’ We go, ‘let’s make a song.’ That song is about playing guitar and how Mike and I both fell in love with guitars at a young age. That was our first love per se and so it’s amplified.”

The overall theme of Paradox is reflective and also of frustration and anger, particularly in “World Of Hate”, offering a rebuke to those who disparage the United States.

“I’m tired of people acting like it’s a bad word or a bad thing to protect and cherish patriotism of our country,” says the Missouri native. “It’s not and we weren’t bad people and our forefathers weren’t bad people. They were of the times they lived in. If we are going to say that people 300 years ago were wrong – probably on certain things – but they were probably more right on other things that we’re not right on anymore because we got our heads so far shoved up our asses that we can’t tell what’s going on around us. Truth of the matter is that song was written during the very beginning of the Covid times when we had all the chaos in the streets and the burning down of cities and the total lawlessness and destruction. That’s where that song came from.”

The capper to Paradox is a cover of the Rainbow classic “Man On The Silver Mountain”, which has a nostalgic component for the singer.

“It was one of them songs I grew up on,” relates Brumley. “I was a big Dio fan my whole life and then throw Ritchie Blackmore in there as well as a guitar player and that really dragged me to that music when I was little bitty kid. Then throughout my whole life, played different songs, but I was never a cover guy. But later on in life, when we started covering songs for records just for fun, we’d always pick a song. Well, during that timeframe of all this coming together, my dad had passed in 2019 and it was one of the songs that he and I thought was really cool from that era. So that’s why I chose it.”

There is much song diversity present, especially the military, funeral march of “Last Goodbye” and the wasteland pictured in “Babylon America”.

Brumley reveals, “We’re definitely not a formulated band. ‘Last Goodbye’ was a song I wrote about my dad’s passing. And when writing, it was done on acoustic guitar. And then I was tinkering with the piano and I just started throwing little melodies in there. And then I thought, ‘you know what? I’m going to throw some electric guitar in this too in the middle and really beef this thing up a bit, give it a solemn march throughout.’ That came together really easy for me. Not easy to sing, because it was hard for me to keep my emotions in check, but I got it.”

As for the approach to songwriting, it happens in an organic way for Brumley. Nothing is calculated; it spurns from ideas relaying ideas with his bandmates.

“Sometimes, like Mike and Lee could be downstairs playing guitar hooks and an idea will come to or Mike will have a hook and we’ll come up with something and then I can feed off that. Lyrically, sometimes the attitude of the guitar hook will direct my lyrical approach. And them sometimes it’s what’s in my mind, what’s going on, you know if we’re being bombed or if everything’s going great. There’s songs I’ve written in my life where it’s about things going well, you know what I mean.”

Diving deeper into his lyrical approach, he states, “I never proclaimed to be this wizard of knowledge that everybody else should bow down to my wisdom. I look at it as way of expression; I think painting pictures with lyrics is cooler than writing stories because if you can paint a picture – you can hear it in the first lyric like ‘trapped in the streets most of my life, I’m a government slave.’ Well, that’s a painted picture. You can see somebody in the street leaning up against a wall, cracked out.”

One of the biggest challenges to Paradox was sequencing out the tracklisting. It’s not easy trying to put 16 tracks together in an order that flows well.

“It took a little while, probably a couple months,” answers Brumley. “And that was about ebb and flow, that was about it. You being able to put that on in your car, in your house with headphones on, on the treadmill working out and it makes sense. I think we accomplished that. We come out the gate pretty strong. We stay there for about three or four songs and then we bounce down with ‘He Shall Return’, which is obviously about the return of Christ. Everything can’t be the same either. I love that. ‘Love Amplified’ is followed by ‘Valley Of The Damned’. So there’s this ‘oh, we’re happy over here, but then here comes the hell!’”

In an increasingly digitized world, Brumley is still a big believer in the physical format.

“I hope someday kids realize that,” says the singer answering about the importance of the physical product. “So think about all the digital music that never came out on a hard copy and if tomorrow we find ourselves in the Stone Age, there’d be no recollection of it at all. But if somebody picked up a vinyl 250 years from now and they just rediscovered electricity and they found a record player, they could play that.”

As for upcoming activities for Conquest, they will be supporting Burning Witches on July 12 at the Diamond Music Hall in St. Peters, MO. Two more music videos are in the making and planned for a fall release as well as more shows in the late summer/early fall.

To close out, we take a trip in the time machine as I asked Brumley about their full-length debut Wicked Ways, which celebrated 30 years in 2023.

“Wicked Ways was a cool record,” he reflects. “It wasn’t my first record. It was the first record that made it into the limelight. But as you say, ‘day late and a dollar short.’ When it came out in ’93 all heavy metal when over to grunge and everything changed. I mean, it was a great ride. It was fun, different times, different world altogether. Different approach – I mean we were younger, younger way of thinking. Today we’re better musicians and definitely better vocals by far. I take pride in what I do, so I take a lot of time making sure I’m getting better. When I quit getting better, I’ll quit.”

For everything Conquest including shows and links to purchase Paradox, head to conquestmetal.com.



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