CONQUER DIVIDE makes hard rock destined for triumph and victory. The five women of the band (who hail from the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada) combat personal demons and outside obstacles with massive, soaring, instantly memorable songs, ready-made for all who struggle. Their blend of anthemic arena rock and blistering metalcore is the sound of perseverance incarnate.
Vocalist Kiarely Taylor, bassist/vocalist Janel Duarte, guitarist Isabel Johnson, drummer Samantha Landa, and Sturgis are reinvigorated and at the top of their game, ready to take on the world anew.
Landing on the Billboard charts, the band’s 2015 self-titled debut racked up more than 30 million streams, driven by powerful tracks like the Kerrang! Awards Best Song nominee “At War.” After a hiatus, CONQUER DIVIDE reemerged on the scene with the heavy and anthemic “Chemicals” in 2020, which Alternative Press called a “contender for best hard rock/metalcore crossover of the year.”
The following year, “Messy” became the No. 1 Most Added on Billboard’s Hard Rock Indicator Chart. Described by Rock Sound as a “monster” track “designed for arenas,” “Paralyzed” offered the first taste of CONQUER DIVIDE’s long-awaited sophomore album. Inspired by guitarist Kristen Sturgis’ “harrowing experiences as a nurse amid the pandemic” (Revolver Magazine), the emotional and vulnerable “Paralyzed” was nominated by Metal Hammer for Best Metal Song of 2022. “FCKBOI,” a collaboration with Electric Callboy, has been streamed over 13 million times on Spotify alone. They’ve had multiple singles on SXM Octane and were featured in the Next Wave Concert Series.
“Caught my reflection in the rearview mirror / my demons are closer than they appear,” Taylor sings on their new album, Slow Burn, a fitting declaration and visceral response to the state of the world.
Slow Burn ushers in a new era for CONQUER DIVIDE, one defined by breathtaking sonic refinement, intensely personal lyrical storytelling, and a seamless balance between hard-hitting modern metal and irresistible melody. Slow Burn is stacked with confessional expressions of vulnerability, frustration, and, ultimately, hope. Each song on Slow Burn summons forth brand new levels of catharsis. There are anthemic hooks throughout the energized songs, addressing social unrest (“system_failure”) and environmental destruction (“welcome2paradise”), with Biblical references (“N E W H E A V E N”), and intensely personal revelations of abuse (“The Invisible,” “Playing w/ Fire”),
“This album doesn’t have any skips on it. I think every song is powerful and important,” Taylor says. “Every song has something everyone can relate to, and each of them is unique. There’s a lot of storytelling, which I think is missing from a lot of modern music. The lyrical content is very strong.”
Sturgis explains that the album title encapsulates the long journey to CONQUER DIVIDE’s sophomore set and their burning creative passions. “It’s a theme that permeates the album, a slow, controlled show of the fire that continues to rage in all of us despite hitting myriad obstacles.”
“We’ve been through our own varying types of personal hells,” Sturgis adds. “Throw in a pandemic, wars, recession; the record explores the mental exhaustion from a world where most of the things we see in our feed are negative and how that affects our psyches. Our biggest hope for this record is for people to know that they aren’t alone in these feelings, and it’s time for all of us to own our power.”
CONQUER DIVIDE first took shape in 2013. Sturgis and Taylor anchored the initial incarnation in Michigan. Liverpool-based YouTube sensation Johnson came aboard the following year; native Texan Duarte joined shortly after; and Canadian-born Landa, formerly with Nervosa, arrived in 2019.
“When Kristen found me online, I was studying at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute in London and uploading videos of my playing to YouTube,” Johnson remembers. “She asked me if I’d be interested in auditioning for her band. After listening to ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’ it was an easy yes.”
Sturgis initially reached out to Landa even earlier, but it wasn’t in the cards at first. “Before Conquer Divide existed, Kristen found me online and said she was putting together a heavy band featuring all women,” she explains. “We went back and forth for a while on ideas but eventually decided I wasn’t the right fit at the time, as I’d just started my first job and couldn’t commit to the band’s busy schedule. As the Conquer Divide took off, friends would send me videos and articles about ‘this awesome new group.’ I always felt like I missed the boat on something special. But we stayed in touch. When the band reached out in 2019, I felt like it was kismet, a full circle moment, and I’ve never looked back.”
All five women acknowledge and respect the diehard supporters of their first album. “But as artists, it would be disingenuous to give them the same thing,” Sturgis reasons repeatedly. “Time and experience change you as people, so we didn’t come at this record the same way we approached our first. People like to draw imaginary lines in music, but we’ve tried to dodge categorization.”
The smart production from Joey Sturgis (Asking Alexandria, The Devil Wears Prada, Of Mice & Men) delicately balances immersive bombast with gritty, authentic, gut-wrenching performances on Slow Burn. Joey Sturgis coproduced “Pressure” with Tyler Smyth (Falling In Reverse, I Prevail, blessthefall). Erik Ron (Godsmack, Black Veil Brides, Motionless In White) co-wrote “wide awake.”
The album boasts orchestral flourishes, piano, and vocal layers from multiple band members.
“Each band member is unique,” Landa explains. “We work toward a common goal. Kristen takes care of business, Kia is a sassy queen, Izzy is a legend, and Janel and I are super silly. The tour vehicle always buzzes with inside jokes. We take what we do seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. Having people from different backgrounds gives us a unique perspective. We approach songwriting from different angles and combine how we perceive what’s happening around us and in our lives.”
On this record, the band taps into a broader sound, walking a well-executed, genre-defying tightrope between pop, rock, and metal without sacrificing what they do best: writing compelling songs.
“Conquer Divide started as an idea: ‘girls can do whatever the guys can do’ and evolved into something much more,” Johnson says. “And that’s what we hope to demonstrate with Slow Burn.”
They’ve highlighted frustrations and struggles they’ve come across in the music industry on the album closer “gAtEkEePer.” “It’s a giant F U to all the industry gatekeepers who minimize women’s participation in rock and metal spaces,” they say. “Keep your damn gate. We’ll take the throne.”
No song is skippable on either CONQUER DIVIDE album. Each song unfolds with purpose, determination, and drive. Every note is urgent and insistent with punch and unforgettable hooks. By early 2023, nearly 600,000 people listened to the band on Spotify monthly. Critics from Guitar World and American Songwriter to Australia’s Wall of Sound have caught on to what fans around the world already knew: CONQUER DIVIDE is a metalcore force determined to conquer the world.
Kiarely Taylor – Vocals
Janel Duarte – Bass/Vocals
Kristen Sturgis – Guitar
Isabel Johnson – Guitar
Samantha Landa – Drums
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