(TheMadIsraeli reviews the debut album by Conquering Dystopia, the instrumental supergroup that features Jeff Loomis, Keith Merrow, Alex Webster, and Alex Rüdinger.)
The instrumental metal conversation has perpetually carried a narrative that it’s inevitably dying, always about to reach its life expectancy, with no room soon to be left for it because no one wants to hear a bunch of musicians directly line-in to a PC and show off. It’s amazing to me that in a genre that is partially, in some of its sub-cultures, built around technical proficiency, and sometimes excess, that such things are said. Although to be fair, there is good reason for that narrative as of late, and it boils down to djent. Djent, especially bedroom djent, nearly killed the instrumental metal market for any widespread appeal. You hear so many Axe-FX rich kids trying to compose generic, boring, ambient soundscapes with chugs — can you blame those who now shy away from instrumental metal?
The thing is, the idea that instrumental metal is an unwanted musical movement not worth exploring is just false. We’re now seeing some of the best composers, both bands and solo individuals, putting out some of the most stunning material in years: Mendel, Angel Vivaldi, Exivious, Blotted Science with their comeback a couple years ago, and most relevant for this review, Jeff Loomis with his post-Nevermore output and Keith Merrow. Not only do these guys all write stellar music, I see educated fans slobbering over this kind of music a lot. The problem is, we’ve been bombarded by so many bedroom djenters that the good music sometimes seems to be drowned out.
Last July I wrote about a crowd-funding campaign that had been launched by Conquering Dystopia — the band created by guitarists Jeff Loomis of Seattle and Keith Merrow of Portland, which also includes bassist Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse) and drummer Alex Rüdinger (The Faceless, Ordinance). That campaign was wildly successful. I splurged on it myself, with a donation that offered a very enticing perk — a meal in Seattle with Loomis and Merrow. And yesterday that happened.
We met at the Hard Rock Cafe at 3:00, and what followed was an extremely enjoyable 2 1/2-hour conversation that ended only when the two needed to hit the road for the drive to Portland, where Jeff is helping Keith and his wife move into a new house (I think we can all agree that there are few truer measures of friendship than one dude helping another one move).
It wasn’t intended to be an interview, but I can’t resist sharing some impressions of the people and some news about both Conquering Dystopia and the future plans of both men. First, the news…
The Conquering Dystopia album is nearly ready for release — perhaps a matter of two or three more weeks. But the guys want to be definite before announcing an official date, and they’re not quite to that point. They are both clearly delighted with the way it turned out and excited for people to hear it. Jeff described it as a “guitar roller coaster, with hills and valleys, cinematic soundscapes, and some experimentation”, and he said it’s very heavy.
Yes, my friends, yet another crowdfunding campaign has been launched by yet another band (Conquering Dystopia) who need help financing a recording. To be precise, they would like to raise $15,000, with most of the money going to professional audio mixing and mastering and the rest to be used for travel expenses and creating merch. And in less than a day they’ve already raised $12,301 as I write this.
When you see who’s in this band and the perks they’re offering for donations, you’ll understand why the money is already rolling in at such a fast pace. Here’s the line-up:
Jeff Loomis (guitars)
Keith Merrow (Demisery) (guitars)
Alex Webster (Cannibal Corpse) (bass)
Alex Rüdinger (The Faceless, Ordinance) (drums)
That’s an awful lot of metal goodness in one band. All the way back in January, Keith Merrow put up a Facebook status in which he said that he and Loomis had decided to collaborate on an album, but not many details have surfaced since then, until yesterday. Last month we featured a video jam by those two (plus Ola Englund), still not really knowing what was cooking. Now we know.