1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear
#38: Uriah Heep – Conquest (1980)
Conquest was really a Heep album in name only writes MATT KELLY, who can’t find a nice thing to say about their turn-of-the-decade excrescence.
Wasting absolutely no time in getting to the obligatory “classic rock act brought low by the 1980s” stage of their career, Conquest is a depressing snapshot of a band insisting on putting out new albums despite the songwriting and chemistry not being there.
The album had a very troubled genesis – stories are that keyboardist Ken Hensley had become increasingly tyrannical and contentious in his control of the group. Vocalist John Lawton and drummer Lee Kerslake both pushed to have more say, and the resulting arguments saw Lawton fired and Kerslake walking. In came Chris Slade (later of AC/DC) on drums and John Sloman on vocals.
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It’s Sloman who a lot of people focus on when shitting on this album and it’s hard to blame them. What the hell is he doing on ‘Imagination’? His strange, jazzy, feminine vocalizations are very off-putting and as for the screeching he does at the end, good heavens.
It’s a shame because ‘Imagination’ sees Heep exploring a different sonic texture, modern and tense, more than you can say about horrific cheese like ‘Feelings’ which comes off as a parody of ’80s pop-rock.
And why are these songs so long? Looking at the lengths, which regularly threaten six minutes, you’d expect epic prog rockers. But no, they’re simple straightforward AOR that do their verse and chorus a few times and just keep going.
‘Carry On’ is unbearable, shrill, diabetes-inducing vocals wailing away over music with no class or wit. ‘Won’t Have To Wait Too Long’ is another shocker, Sloman annoying and uncontrolled, and the whole album from Supertramp demo ‘No Return’ to the never-ending “shoot me now” ballad ‘It Ain’t Easy’ just doesn’t sound like Uriah Heep.
The album literally destroyed the band. Meetings in its aftermath were so bad, Hensley first fired Sloman, then told the others to go fuck themselves and quit. Slade, who felt like a session musician rather than a member, slinked off and Bolder, feeling Heep was a sinking ship, took a job with Wishbone Ash, leaving Heep with one member, guitarist Mick Box. It looked like it was all over. Ironically, Conquest is a complete defeat.