Conquer & Divide

Joe Stump's Reign Of Terror

Leviathan Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson


Like the many Yngwie Malmsteen releases that have found their way to my ears over the years, Joe Stump's releases all blend together. I recognize Malmsteen as being great at what he does, but I can barely recollect any songs on any of his releases, except for a song called "Heaven Tonight" on Odyssey (and that's only because I heard it the other day on Rock 108's Bad Hair Friday show. Before that, I couldn't have told you a single song.

Joe Stump's CDs are going down the same path. Both Rapid Fire Rondo and 2001: A Shred Odyssey contain fast guitar work and that's all Stump is about: playing fast because he can. The self-proclaimed guitar shred God is back with his band, Reign of Terror, and on this release, Stump offers Conquer & Divide as further evidence that he should be included in the list of great guitar shredders like Tony MacAlpine, Vinnie Moore, and the Great Kat.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Joe Stump's guitar technique is amazing to my ears, reminding me of Vinnie Moore's Mind's Eye release. Stump always has outstanding drummers on his records that typically provide a double bass pattern upon which Stump plays his melodies. With Reign of Terror, Stump has also brought keyboardist Mats Olausson on as a "Special Guest."

Stump waits a mere 40 seconds before flexing his fingers with a fast riff that leaves guitarists wondering what he is doing. Stump is fast, there's no question. The opening 40 seconds of "No Forgiving" demonstrate Stump can play fast. Michael Vescera offers a Bruce Dickinson-ish powerful vocal element and drummer Matt Scurfield picks up all of Stumps changes with his cymbals driving the band forward on "No Limits." What is interesting is that the guitar solos, where Stump is playing his fastest, seem muddy in the production. Maybe that's the desired effect, that the notes are meant to be blurry and not distinct sounds - - everything meshes together.

The instrumental "Seance" is the best track on this release. It is one that, like the aforementioned "Heaven Tonight" might actually stay in my mind. The melody is slower with "speed spurts" to showcase Stump's playing. Scurfield's drumming on this track, especially his China cymbal, is inspiring. The lyrics of these songs could use some work, though, as they teeter between cliche and downright stupid. For example, the chorus of "Bite The Bullet" grates my nerves: "Bite the bullet/ just let it go/ bite the bullet/ watch the torment grow." Final track "The Meaning" grates my nerves as well with these lyrics: "There's always forgiving/ no matter the cost/ it's taken for granted/ the price we'll pay." They may be heart-felt lyrics, but they just come across as not especially well-written. It's like the Van Halen syndrome. Eddie is a great guitarist, but most Van Halen lyrics are not literature "Do it till we're black and blue", for example. Same thing here.

Overall, Stump is for the guitar enthusiast who likes to hear fast guitar shredding with classical music influences. The drumming is outstanding with lots of fast and interesting parts. If fast guitar playing is your thing, then Reign of Terror is your band.

Rating: B

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© 2002 Paul Hanson and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Leviathan Records, and is used for informational purposes only.