June 6, 2024

The quality of the writing and musicianship on Conquerors is consistently high, and the unifying lyrical theme intriguing. And in Molin, Tee has found the perfect partner.

Jona Tee is best known as the long-time keyboard player in Swedish rock band H.E.A.T. He has spread out in recent years, being a member of Crowne too, and taking on production duties on various other releases. He also started a side project with ex-H.E.A.T vocalist Erik Grönwall under the moniker New Horizon,  releasing Gate Of The Gods in 2022. Since then, Grönwall was the one seeking new horizons and he joined the legendary Skid Row (although he subsequently had to step down for health reasons). Tee maintained the New Horizon name though, and turned to longtime friend Nils Molin of Amaranthe to fill the gap, and Conquerors is the outcome of what promises to be a fascinating new collaboration. 

Tee and Molin, looking ready to conquer the musical world

The first single, Daimyo, is an excellent showcase for the album. It’s a heavy mid-paced track, maybe a little reminiscent of Ronnie James Dio, and Molin’s vocals don’t sound too far away from Dio himself. It’s heavy metal but it’s also very melodic and the chorus has a real anthemic quality to it.  Certain lyrics could cause you to cringe – take for example: ‘sound the charge in the eventide, no turning back, into glory ride’. But, no, this is no Manowar fantasy of bulging muscles and chopping up one’s enemies effortlessly. Instead, the Daimyo were real historical characters. They were the feudal lords that dominated Japan for centuries. They are just one of the diverse types of conquerors that the album title refers to.

Most but not all the conquerors are military. King Of Kings is about Jesus Christ and opens appropriately with an ecclesiastical-sounding organ before giving way to hard-rocking but again very melodic metal. There’s a fine Blackmore-esque solo courtesy of Love Magnusson (one of three guest guitarists on the album), and Molin is again impressive. This is the sort of epic track that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Lords Of Black album. Similarly impressive is Apollo, that addresses the conquest of space and the race for it (‘Two nations locked in a cosmic chase’ is a great opening line). There’s more of an AOR feel to this one and the very catchy chorus is the closest Tee comes to sounding like H.E.A.T. on this album. In fact, it sounds very much like classic H.E.A.T.

The above mid-paced songs are to these ears the highlights of the album, but those of you with a taste for no holds barred power metal might well prefer other tracks. The opener Against All Odds is a pure audio pummelling, racing along at an incredibly thrilling speed. It’s here that Molin beats Grönwall hands down. His powerful voice fits hands in glove with this aggressive musical style. There are several other tracks in this same power metal style, all of which are enjoyable but sometimes slightly predictable and without quite reaching the heights of Against All Odds. Hidden between two of these tracks is an exquisite ballad Before The Dawn where Molin duets with Amaranthe bandmate Elize Ryd. It’s a pretty predictable song too, to be honest, with lots of strings, a pan pipes theme and a soaring chorus, but despite that you can’t help enjoying it and wanting to sing along.

The album closes with the near nine-minute Alexander The Great, subtitled 356-323 B.C., which I at first thought was Tee being a bit unnecessarily pompous (just in case any Newcastle fans might think he’s singing about their star striker Aleksander Isak?). That is, until I realised it was a cover of the Iron Maiden song from 1986. It’s a faithful interpretation of the original with just a bit of a modern sheen to bring the sound into line with the rest of the album.

The quality of the writing and musicianship on Conquerors is consistently high, and the unifying lyrical theme intriguing. And in Molin, Tee has found the perfect partner. Pity we’re unlikely to ever see this project transferred to the live stage but fans of melodic power metal will get pleasure enough just sitting back and listening to Conquerors.