Conquer and Divide
Leviathan Records

Rising up like a phoenix from the East is Joe Stump's Reign of Terror and their new CD "Conquer and Divide." This fourth installment picks up where last years "Sacred Ground" left off delving more into the dark abyss of classically influenced "shred metal." Capitalizing on the extraordinary talents of vocalist Mike Vescera and the powerful rhythm section of drummer Matt Scurfield and bassist Jay Rigney electric guitar wizard, Joe Stump creates a mesmerizing voyage of orchestrated opulence. Special guest keyboardist Mats Olausson aids in weaving a passionate set of intricately placed texture through complex arrangements specifically in 'No Forgiving' and 'Forsaken'.

With raging riffs at hyper speed on 'Mark Of The Devil', 'Sign Of The Cross' and 'No Limits' is easy to see the bands clear influences from Rising Force to Rainbow to Deep Purple. 'No Limits' in particular has an uncanny Scorpions 'Dynamite' echo to it. Mixing elements of European based power metal, speed and thrash along with more traditional metal stylings, the band lay an unparalleled trademark. Come join us as we talk to the mastermind behind this neoclassical phenomenon, Joe Stump.

The Cutting Edge: There is a surprising amount of interest in the more classic sound of metal popularizes by Yngwie Malmsteen, Chastain and to some degree Queensryche. Why do you think the genre has such appeal?

Joe Stump: A lot of classic metal, to me, seems timeless - so even though it came to rise during the 80`s it’s still being listened to by newer generations of metal fans. And you’ll always have fans and listeners that appreciate high quality musicianship and guitar virtuosity.

TCE: Does the style seem frozen in time?

JS: I don’t know about frozen in time but to me being dedicated to excellence on my instrument and crafting intelligent metal and hard rock shouldn’t be something that becomes dated.

TCE: Are there places you can go with projects such as Conquer and Divide?

JS: Of course, I have a very loyal fan-base not only in the States but worldwide.

TCE: The playing is top notch. I'm especially drawn to your breathless guitar work. What is the process for warming up - especially to deliver this level of finger calisthenics "live?"

JS: I play guitar constantly so there’s no special warm-up process. I've been playing at this highly technically developed level for quite some time now so it’s just a purely natural thing for me.

TCE: Let's talk a little about how “Conquer And Divide” came about. It reminds me of a rock opera in a way. Was there an effort to blend stylistic songwriting into a cohesive unit?

JS: It’s not a concept record by any means and while the stylistic content of the tunes and sound of the record are consistent from song to song, none of the tunes are connected in any type of story line.

TCE: Excellent choice to use Gustave Dore for the primary artwork. Were you looking for an image that described the music or where you using the image to attract the listener to the music?

JS: The music is heavy, gothic and quite dark and I wanted the cover art to reflect that. And that Dore adaptation works real well.

TCE: Where did the images come from? The Devine Comedy?

JS: I’m not sure, Chric McCarvill, the artist who did the cover art chose the piece.

TCE: I see Reign of Terror entering the world of Virgin Steele at times. Is there an influence there?

JS: No Virgin Steel influence whatsoever. I’m a fan of some of Jack Starr’s early solo records and dug the first few Virgin Steel records with Jack though.

TCE: ‘No Forgiving’ and ‘Forsaken’ make great use of Mats Olausson's keyboard work. Is he a part of your touring band? What brought him into this project - especially this song?

JS: Mats played on the last Reign of Terror disc “Sacred Ground.” He’s a great, tremendously talented musician and I was so glad to have him back on “Conquer and Divide.” On the new disc we utilized his great keyboard work even more than the previous record. He’s a close friend of Mike’s (Vescera ) from when they used to play with Yngwie together.

TCE: ‘Mark The Devil’, ‘Sign Of The Cross’ ‘Bite The Bullet’ and ‘Sacrifice’ have phenomenal riffs. Do you work in pieces and then put them all together in one sitting or do you build a song up until it’s finished then more on to the next one?

JS: I usually have tons of riffs and tune ideas floating around in different stages of development. Sometimes I do bang the whole thing out in one sitting though, while other times it could be weeks or a month or two before I find one section to connect with another. It’s different every time.

TCE: The entire record has a European feel to it. Where are the influences that give Reign of Terror its breath of life?

JS: Well my guitar influences are -Ritchie Blackmore, Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Schenker, Uli- Jon Roth, Gary Moore and Jimi Hendrix. And you can certainly hear the heavy Rainbow, Purple and Rising Force influence in my writing and playing - as well as mixing speed, thrash and classic Euro-metal influences.

TCE: ‘Sign Of The Cross’ drives very much like Rainbow. Is this intentional. Where did the lyrics for this one come from?

JS: I’m not sure about the lyrics, you’d have to ask Mike that. But the Rainbow influence is of course intentional.

TCE: ‘No Limits’ has a Scorpions ‘Dynamite’ feel. Was that intentional? Cool blues thing going on in there as well.

JS: Someone else mentioned that to me as well. But no that’s Rainbow and Deep Purple again, or that was the my intention anyway.

TCE: Brilliant job on “Séance”. Absolutely gorgeous!!

JS: Thanks I’m glad you enjoyed that one.

Special thanks to Leviathan Records and Joe Stump for taking the time to set up and deliver this interview. Joe Stump’s Reign of Terror has several other records out. Check out “Sacred Ground", "Second Coming" and "Light In The Sky” as well as Joe’s solo efforts “Guitar Dominance”, “2001: A Shred Odyssey”, “Night Of The Living Shred” and “Supersonic Shred Machine.”

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