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Conqueror: Madame Zelle

Conqueror's fourth record, Madame Zelle, is an ambitious concept album revolving around the tragic and true life of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (also known as Mata Hari). Broken into nine chapters, it's an exceptionally unclichéd entry into the genre, bursting with lush, unexpected tones that make it feel as if it was recorded in the early 70s.

Eager to tell the "…fascinating story of the legendary Mata Hari…," the band crafts a detailed narrative about how an internationally adored exotic dancer became accused of, and executed for, being a spy for the French. Or, at least that's what I'm told; the story, unsurprisingly, is in Italian, and so many listeners will not know what the plot is. Luckily, that doesn't take away from the experience. Conqueror provides some wonderfully complex and beautiful music and vocals (courtesy of keyboardist Simona Rigano) that everyone can get lost in.

"Margaretha" opens with a prelude that instantly feels of an Opera. Some nice piano work leads into the vocals, which are quite elegant. At around fifteen minutes long, the track goes through several fantastic changes in complexity, style and sounds. A wide array of strings and horns accompany the standard rock base, and Conqueror establishes itself as a dominant force in the new Italian prog scene. Elements of Canterbury prog are mixed with touches of Curved Air, PFM and Goblin, and it feels both fresh and vintage.

Just as planned, all the tracks melt together in a wonderful synthesis; discussing any more individually would only take away from that. Conqueror incorporate Egyptian twang with flutes, bells, and just about every other instrument you could think of throughout Madame Zelle. And they never get obnoxiously heavy – every second of the album oozes style and classy restrain, interweaving melody with trickiness like masters of their art. Calm moments explode into outrageous time signatures that require attention because of their grace, not speed, and Rigano's voice mixes seductiveness with charm.

Madame Zelle is easily one of the best albums of the year, and it's probably Conqueror's finest outing yet. Italian prog has always differentiated itself from English and American prog with certain elements, sometimes intangible, that carry a royal refinement. Conqueror carry on the torch well, and this album will delight you from start to finish.

Track Listing
1) Margaretha
2) Indonesia
3) Occhio dell'alba
4) Fascino proibito
5) Eleganza perfetta
6) H-21
7) Doppio gioco
8) Da sola
9) Ad occhi alti

Added: December 13th 2010
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 1388
Language: english

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