DORO - Conqueress: Forever Strong And Proud
October 19, 2023, a month ago
15 tracks, including a German lyric song, a pair of covers (with Judas Priest singer Rob Halford) and a third duet: that should be enough, but no, the Metal Queen includes no less than five additional "bonus" cuts. Wow! Stylistically, no real surprises this late in a career that celebrates 40 years, just another helping of what we've all come to expect and love about Doro Pesch.
A mid-tempo "Children Of The Dawn" opens, with gruff male choir accompaniment. Speedy "Fire In The Sky" follows, imbued with a sense of urgency and guitar work to match. Could be a good addition to the live show. I know Doro feels a sense of gratitude towards Priest, for taking Warlock out on the initial European tour, all those years ago, but I've never been a fan of her decision to play "Breaking The Law" as part of the live set. So now, adding "Living After Midnight", just three songs into the new platter (even if it has a vocal track from the Metal God, himself) does nothing for me. It's sort of a poppy/Turbo take on the original. Follow-up, Jangly guitar to start, like some ‘90s alternative act, "All For You", threatens to continue the lukewarm pace, but quickly throws a switch and a more frenetic, staccato punk beat takes over. Another one seemingly destined for the concert stage. None of the proper tunes eclipses five minutes and most are under Roger Bannister's famous time constraint. The bonuses vary between 94 seconds to a 7+ minute rendition of Metallica's "The Four Horsemen".
"Lean Mean Rock Machine" clocks in at exactly three minutes, sort of a throwaway about fast cars, with racing engine and police siren soundbites. "I Will Prevail" opts for a heavy stomp, with gritty (uncredited) male counterpoint. Speaking of XY chromosome vocals, "Bond Unending" is not really a love song, but certainly more lightweight, a pop duet with Broilers' Sammy Amara. Video single "Time For Justice" is a fist pumper, can practically see the diminutive blonde, at the lip of the stage, imploring fans to sing the titular chorus and thrust fists skyward. The lone full production track, complete with crack of thunder sound effect, orchestral strings and alternating Anglo-Teutonic lyrics, "Fels In Der Brandung" (solid as a rock) is a ballad. While tinkle of piano keys kick it off, Love Breaks Chains" is built around a straight ahead, stripper strut, rock guitar (rather than metal), It's also the longest cut, almost reaching five minutes in length, with lyrics almost exclusively comprised of the oft repeated title.
Back to mid-tempo, there's the head bobbing "Drive Me Wild", in praise of sensual relationships, on and off-stage. While it won't be mistaken for an old Warlock outtake, the nevertheless clearly metallic, "Rise" is the type of upbeat anthem that Doro does so well. Fancy hammer-on/guitar tapping, to boot. "Best In Me" is another (power)ballad relationship ode to her lover ("You bring out the best in me. I'm nothing without you"). "Heavenly Creatures" is a slick produced number that could be from countless ‘80s Sunset Strip acts. Not bad, just non-descript. The disc "closes" with the return of Halford, in duet, on "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" (made famous in '83 by Bonnie Tyler). Doro mimics Tyler's cigarette/whiskey hoarse vocal, but Rob turns it into a higher pitched, over-the-top Broadway rendition. Guess the appearance with Dolly Pardon wore off on him!
What "saves" the metal quotient are the extras. First up, a spoken word/a cappella intro called "Warlock and Witches", accompanied by more rolls of thunder (no instrumentation). Seems like a good (career encapsulating) concept, but it doesn't go anywhere. "Horns Up High", multiple male backing vocals, is an attempt to replicate the sentiment of Amon Amarth's "Raise Your Horns". A slow, bluesy "True Metal Maniacs" will resonate with the fan base, especially the Wacken faithful, particularly the line "come rain or come shine" (the festival's bylaw). A little guitar crunch, to begin "Heart In Pain", feels like past inclusions with (ex-Plasmatic) Jean Beauvoir. Two thirds of the way through, there's an abrupt change, to a dirtier guitar sound. Finally, the telltale riff of early Metallica kicks in, as Doro tries her hand at the aforementioned Kill Em All classic, complete with fuzzy guitar tones.
Doubtful most North Americans will ever hear more than a handful of these selections, live (and probably have to travel overseas to see/hear that). So listen up, now!