Review Summary: Burden of Life rise.
I was certainly a bit overwhelmed (and surprised) when I first listened to The Makeshift Conqueror
, as many will no doubt be, I predict. Burden Of Life’s ambitions are very high, and on their fifth proper release, the German four-piece have gone all out, throwing all of their songwriting chops and instrumental proficiency into an epic that will not only rise above their current discography, but will also stand tall with the best of 2020’s metal still yet to come. Crazy thing is, The Makeshift Conqueror
has seemingly come out of nowhere.
Few have apparently heard of this progressive melodic death metal band, but with Conqueror
, that should change—one would hope. Imagine if Persefone actually had decent vocalists and cared about song structures, or if Opeth rewinded time back to the 2000s and decided to write Blind Guardian-like sing-a-longs with a faster take on their progressive death metal brand. It’s kinda like that, more or less. Conqueror
is huge, progressive, melodic, expertly played, and soars with creative charisma. Best part, at least to me, is the interplay between the acoustic and distorted guitars from band members Karl Bodawe and Matthis Babl, as well as the interplay between harsh and clean vocal sections. That’s where and why the album largely succeeds: the melodic
is expertly interwoven with the death
. Balance, that is—natural sounding and beautifully implemented.
“The Makeshift Conqueror Pt.1” opens the album in a deceiving fashion, not so unlike how Opeth opened 2008’s Watershed
with “Coil”. It’s acoustic and melodic, more or less a ballad, but it only halfway represents the rest of Conqueror
yet to follow. “Giestesblitz” is where one gets a larger, more accurate picture of what’s to follow: You have angelic male choirs, acoustic and distorted guitar interplay, and soaring melodic vocal lines. Conqueror
’s just getting started, though, but it’s easy to see why the band’s fans consider this a major highlight, and as a summation-like track for the album, it fits the bill.
The best is yet to come, however, and there are highlights aplenty on Conqueror
. All of these tracks work together in wondrous synchronization, though, and as listens pass, a powerful album picture for this epic is seen, or heard rather. It’s technical and progressive, yeah, but it’s far from being mere wanker-y, which a lot of music by bands of this ilk can often be. The time signatures of next track “Goddess of the River” swirl around melodic vocal lines, guitar solos implemented with care and precision. The pace picks up; the pace slows down. Again, it still creates a remarkably cohesive unit. Burden of Life are not playing around here. And yes, they succeed.
The best track is easily “Regression (Goddess Return)”, which stands as Conqueror
’s centerpiece and Burden of Life’s crowning achievement. Not to downplay the tracks that came before or after it, no: every epic needs a thesis, or rather, a cornerstone for foundation. “Regression” finds Mikael Stanne-like snarls leading into sweeping cleanly-sung chorus lines that build and build and, well—just build
. Acoustic and noodly guitars then turn into an interplay of piano and distorted guitar leads and solos. The vocal chorus lines return, and Burden of Life ride the song out like champions.
A poignant piano ballad with a male-female duet follow in “Trust My Own Heart”, which then leads into the finale of the second part of the title track to close out the album. Conqueror
is indeed epic in scope and ambition, so, of course, Burden of Life have to close this out in an epic way. Marching drums lead into a harsh section that then segues into gang shouts and choir harmonies. A bass and piano solo play underneath the vocal chorus melody here. Then, soaring vocals ride the song out near the end, which then closes with the same marching drums that started the track. It's a beautiful way to end an awe-inspiring album that has seemingly come out of nowhere. I'm giving my congratulations to these guys, and I hope more listeners get on board. Bravo, Burden of Life. You deserve recognition.