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Conqueror Madame Zelle album cover
3.41 | 53 ratings | 9 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2010

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Margaretha (14:42)
2. Indonesia (5:15)
3. Occhio Dell'alba (4:53)
4. Fascino Proibito (7:11)
5. Eleganza Perfetta (6:24)
6. H-21 (7:35)
7. Doppio Gioco (5:32)
8. Da Sola (5:34)
9. Ad Occhi Alti (8:15)

Total Time 65:21

Line-up / Musicians

- Simona Rigano / vocals, keyboards
- Mario Pollino / guitars
- Sabrina Rigano / flute, saxophone
- Gianluca Villa / bass
- Natale Russo / drums, percussion

Releases information

The nine chapters of the concept album tell in chronological order the fascinating story of the legend of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (Mata Hari) 1876-1917

Artwork: Mario Pollino (photo)

CD Ma.Ra.Cash Records ‎- MRC 019 CD (2010, Italy)

Digital album

Thanks to finnforest for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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CONQUEROR Madame Zelle ratings distribution

(53 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(49%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (2%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

CONQUEROR Madame Zelle reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The Italian Izz?

Conqueror is but one of the exceptional bands on Ma.Ra.Cash Records, one of Italy's premier labels for great progressive rock. This is a band which feels ready to take over the prog world with a new album and line-up that oozes confidence and professionalism. The shift started with the previous album "74 Giorni" which found the band making strides although there are a few of our reviewers who preferred the more overt Italian symphonic flair of the first two albums. "Madame Zelle" is a brand new concept album picking up from where "74 Giorni" left off. The lovely and very talented Rigano sisters Simona and Sabrina return with veteran and lone original member Natale Russo on the kit. Two new axemen finalize the new line-up of Conqueror, Mario Pollino on lead and Gianluca Villa on bass. While the lovely Italian vocals are still firmly in place, the last two albums seem to be moving in a more international prog-rock direction and less steeped in traditional Italian feeling. Listening to "Madame Zelle" the first band they reminded me of was not an Italian band, but a mellower version of USA band Izz (think of a track like "Confusion" from Ampersand.) I think Izz fans would really dig the sound on this album and suggest they check it out.

"Madame Zelle" is an ambitious concept album based on the life of the famous courtesan and alleged double-agent Mata Hara, and it follows her life dedicating each track to a different chapter, all the way until her execution by firing squad in 1917. The sound of the new album is perfectly appropriate for the subject matter: elegant, exotic, and full of beautiful passages. Newbies Pollino and Villa waste no time hunkering down with Russo to provide Conqueror with a backbone that is sure-footed, at times muscular but able to be light on their feet as well. The tracks mix symphonic and jazzy progressive rock with a light dose of RPI flavour and a heavy shot of melody. Against this superb band are the tasteful keyboards of Simona Rigano (the piano being my favourite!) and her delightful vocal prowess. Younger sister Sabrina Rigano is often the "lead" in many tracks, covering the saxes but most important here is her flute work. She carries many passages with "lead flute" work that is strong and simply floats you away. "Madame Zelle" is just LOADED with gorgeous flute solos which I think convey very well the personality of the subject. To add the final extra touch they bring in guest musician Ottavio Leo to add sitar and other instrumentation throughout the album. These moments really add some nice spicy touches to the "Zelle" sound, giving certain tracks an infusion of the Loreena McKennitt travelogue sound. Special mention goes to guitarist Pollino who has less lead presence than he might otherwise have due to the heavy flute emphases, yet when he does take a solo he plays with majesty and great emotion.

I believe the compositions overall to be an improvement over "74 Giorni" which I must confess I was luke warm on. A friend and I were talking about Conqueror and agreed that this band are on the very "refined" end of RPI whereas we generally prefer the dirtier and saucier RPI, the RPI from the rough side of the tracks if you will. But when you are in the mood for the classy and the refined, no one does it better than Conqueror. Here they deliver an album as elegant as Delirium's "Il Nome del Vento" and as accomplished as Finisterre or Ubi Maior. And I still believe the Izz reference is a valid one. Whether the actual tracks are as memorable as those distinguished bands will be revealed in time, this is an early review after only 3 or 4 spins. But my gut tells me people are going to love this album. The songs range in length from 5-15 minutes with the opener "Margaretha" being the extended epic track.

The artwork and booklet for this CD release need a paragraph all their own. Every track gets its own page, which features complete lyrics as well as stunning photography by guitarist Pollino, similar to the cover shot. With graphics partner Enzo Puglisi they have assembled a gorgeous booklet of shots of Mata Hari as posed by Alessia Navarria with extensive make-up work by Angela Gugliotta. Being a history geek I would have preferred to see some archival photos of the real Mata Hara included, but these softened black/white "acted" shots come very close to delivering the same feel. The care put into the booklet adds a nice touch to the overall aesthetic of the release.

If you enjoyed the previous work of Conqueror this album is a slam dunk. If you've never heard them, this is a good time to start. "Madame Zelle" will give you 9 tracks of lovely contemporary progressive rock as graceful as the Mata Hari herself.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Madame Zelle" (or just Mata Hari) is fresh Italian Prog album which attracted me by it's a bit unusual cover art. I am not a fan of RPI , unless it's an Area album. But I can listen that music time to time, just to stay informed what happens there in sweet and dreamy shores of ancient seas.

From very first sounds of this album I just returned back to my old unanswered question: is this pleasant,sweet and well rounded music prog at all? And after repeated listening, I (as almost always) just left this question unanswered for myself. Yes, this music has many prog attributes: plenty of strings, neo-classic arrangements, not too simple compositions structures, etc. From another side, I am absolutely sure, that we have plenty of similar (non-Italian) artists as Conqueror around the world, and no-one will never ever suggest them for addition to PA. We name them contemporary inteligent pop, but hardly have even idea they are connected with progressive rock music.

Now, back to album's music. Very pleasant female pop-vocal, competent arrangements, plenty of flute and strings, rich orchestrated sound. Nice melodies, really nice - in fact, many songs could be played on radio or participate on San Remo fest. Tasteful, quality and not boring art-pop Italy is known for decades.

Don't think my (as stranger's) opinion is interesting for RPI fans. But for all others - really nice art-pop album, with symphonic prog influences, modern enough not to remind you one of thousand Italian antique museums, but with all attributes of best Italian pop-music : soulful, melodic, well arranged and orchestrated, with well balanced, almost polished sound.Good soundtrack for your next weekend in Lignano.

Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One of my favourite more recent purchases is Madame Zelle, the latest of four studio albums from Italian's Coqueror. It's a concept album based on the colourful life of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, better known as the Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari, who met her death in 1917 at the hands of a firing squad having been accused of being a double agent. In the years since it has come to light that the accusations were unfounded and she was actually innocent.

Madame Zelle is a lovely album at the more melodic end of the RPI genre. The band certainly have plenty of experience having been around since the mid-nineties in one form or another and it shows as they turn in a classy performance of well-constructed and tuneful Italian prog with a contemporary sound, though with roots in the seventies tradition of the genre. The music features lots of instrumental sections, not overly complex but nevertheless creating a captivating listening experience as it shifts through many moods and changes created by the keyboards, flute, saxophone, guitar, bass and drums line-up. All this is topped off by the gorgeous female vocals of Simona Rigano, her melancholic tones perfectly capturing the sadness of the outcome of the story. It's not the most bombastic of albums, though it has its moments, but is more about strong melodic hooks and as a result is easily accessible. Sometimes an eastern vibe is present, no doubt to create the mood of the exotic dancer part of the story.

Despite having an instant liking for Madame Zelle, no doubt down to the tuneful nature of the material, repeated plays reveal more layers, something often lacking in more immediately accessible music. Not so here as I've grown fonder of it with each play and it's well on track to make my top 10 albums of the year. A really lovely record.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars New release by this band from Sicily. Like their previous CD 74 Giorni, this is a concept album of sorts. This time they decided to tell the story of the famous dutch female spy Mata Hari (Margaretha Geertruida Zelle), also known as Madame Zelle. And they were quite succesful again. The core of the band members (drummer Natale Russo, keyboardist and singer Simona Rigano, both founder members, plus Simona´s sister Sabrina on flute and sax) remains the same, but there are newcomers on guitar amd bass. Both of whom do a very good job here, specially bassist Gianluca Villa.

Madame Zelle shows how much this group have grown through the years. Although Simona Rigano´s style of singing is still quite typical italian, the instrumental side is leaning slightly more towards international prog music, with additions of eastern rhythms, jazzy passages and even some bossa nova bits here and there. The songs are all good, showing how much this group knows how to write great melodic tunes without being simplistic and/or falling into easy traps. Some reviewers here see their music as too mellow and not really challeging. Well, I had this impression at first, but after some spins I started to discover the great musicanship and the elaborated and tasteful arrangements hidden behind the fine tapestry of sounds they made.

It took me some time to fully appreciate this work, as most of the good prog records do. Some parts are very well done and complicated, but it is so subtle and connected to the simple melodies, you can easily mistake it for lighter stuff. And anyone who had ever tried to write memorable tunes know how hard it is to do just that. And certainly Conqueror has all plenty of talent for that, for there is not a single wasted note or filler in the entire CD. Simona Rigano has a beautiful voice but is also a skillful keyboard player (lots of vintage sounds!). I loved Russo´s drumming too: the guy is simply brilliant. The rest of the band is not far behind (new guitarrist Mario Pollino is very good, and I hope he gets the chance to show off a little more of his solos in future releases). The production is also top notch, with all the instruments and vocals very well balanced.

Highlight of the CD: the closing track, Ad Occhi Alti, really beautiful. Simona never sang better and with such emotion. Great guitar solo and moving instrumental parts.

Conclusion: another winner from this fine band. Conqueror is indeed conquering their place in prog music history surpassing themselves with each release. If you like melodic prog music with lots of 70´s references you cannot miss this one. Rating: 4,5 stars. Highly recommended!

Review by TheGazzardian
2 stars This Italian concept album about Mata Hari aka Madame Zelle falls a bit short for me. Which is a bit puzzling, because plenty of the ingredients are here - an interesting concept (even though I don't understand the lyrics), multifaceted compositions, lovely singing and music, some parts that rock out quite ably, even some jazzy influences and ethnic drumming.

I guess you could say that all the ingredients were added to the soup, but there was too much water. So while they are all present, none have a really strong flavor. The album coasts along at "pleasant" mostly from beginning to end, but rarely do I feel excited by the music, or very emotionally involved. And unfortunately, there are a few parts where the instrumentals just seem to be meandering, looking for that something that would give the album an extra boost but failing to find it...

I've put this album to rest and then picked it up again various times, in the hope of finding what it was that I missed that others are enjoying. But at this point, I have to acknowledge that maybe this album just isn't for me.

And there's not much else to be said. For sure, many will enjoy this album, especially those already inclined to exactly this type of music, but it's not the best of its type.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I really enjoyed Conqueror's previous album "74 Giorni", a masterfully melodic and adventurous concept album based on seamen lost on the ocean that had all the cylinders revving. Astute melodies expressed by scintillating playing, a fabulous aquatic mood and a operatic female vocalist , all melded together in that wonderfully unique Italian prog style we all know as RPI . I was eagerly awaiting this one, as it was another concept, this time based on that foremost great spy (No, not Bond) , the legendary Mata Hari, also know as Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, hence the title. I must say the initial spin through was not very inspiring, as it happens actually quite often in prog, you got to be in the right receptive frame of mind. It's a chemistry thing? So, try again, she said, in a hefty seductive whisper? Amazing how a second attempt can shake the cobwebs of immediate judgment! The opening epic wastes no time in setting the stage, a nearly 15 minute ride led impetuously by vocalist Simona Rigano's sizzling synthesizer soloing, sister Sabrina supplying the delicate flute and later saxophones , newcomers guitarist Mario Pollino and bassist Gianluca Villa who both replaced the very solid Tino Nastasi adding their own touches while drummer Natale Russo bangs nicely. This is a very tasty opener, full of pleasant meanderings. I will interject here and boldly state that I miss Nastasi's dripping guitar style as well as his superlative Rickenbaker bass playing , both very noteworthy. "Indonesia" has a breezy melody that is to die for, fluttering sitar-like strums vying with the percussives for status, Pollino flashing some nice leads, very restrained and subtle , the flute entering the fray to add depth and a certain sultriness to the saga. There are some less successful tracks here such as "Occhio dell'Alba" a jazzier, groovier and yet somehow disheveled, as if something was missing, unsaved by the fine synth solo or the pleasant sax or "Fascino Proibito", a bluesier (Hammond M-102 with Leslie will do that for you) rant that features an extended jazzy sax solo that contrasts with the earlier harder edges. These contrasts continue less successfully on "Eleganza Perfetta" and yet "H21" is pretty interesting with assorted stops and starts, great flute and fabulous singing help this groove along. The Hammond organ solo is followed by a spiraling synthesizer job, really cool. "Da Sola" has a little dose of raunchy but stays on course. There is little doubt that the closer, "Ad Occhi Alti" is the other winner here, some finesse jazzy singing, pounding organ and a crunchy guitar solo to highlight the impending execution of the seductive spy. Expressive and dramatic to say the least. Beautiful artwork, packaging and photography as mentioned by our Minnesota Finn.

Not as successful as the previous album but there is a lot of talent here. I still prefer the moody previous opus . I guess I haven't been conquered totally this time. 3.5 Firing squads

Review by andrea
4 stars After the release of an EP in 2009, "Sprazzi di luce", in 2010 Conqueror released on Ma.Ra.Cash Records their fourth full length studio album, "Madame Zelle", with a renewed line up featuring Natale Russo (drums and percussions), Simona Rigano (vocals, keyboards and synth), Sabrina Rigano (flute and saxophone), Mario Pollino (guitars) and Gianluca Villa (bass). During the recording sessions they were helped by Ottavio Leo who contributed to enrich the sound with sitar and other instruments. The result is very good and the band confirmed here all the qualities of their previous works. "Madame Zelle" is a concept album inspired by the life and legend of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, better known as Mata Hari. Simona Rigano's inspired vocals do not tell a story, they interpret with heartfelt empathy the feelings and emotions of an unabashedly independent, sensitive woman while the music is full of colours and nuances.

The long, complex opener "Margaretha" sets the atmosphere. It begins softly, the mood is dreamy and the music features an exotic flavour. Memories from the childhood and the formative years of the protagonist emerge as little isles in the North Sea. Margaretha Geertruida Zelle was born in the Netherlands in 1876. After her father went bankrupt, in 1989, she went through a very difficult period that marked her rebellious beauty and this nice suite honours the everyday battles of her growing up... "Where the tides break in through the borders of an incomparable land / Where starfishes emerge from the seabed, playing with nature / That's where my memories recall the smell of every single day I passed at the mercy of a youth long time gone / That's where my thoughts tell the ingenuous but extrovert smile of an already prohibited charm...".

The following "Indonesia" begins with percussion and sitar. It's a beautiful instrumental track where the music conjure up mysterious Oriental charms. Margaretha got married with a captain of the Dutch Colonial Army and followed him to Java. She was unhappy in her marriage but during this period of her life she learned a lot about local culture and about the art of seduction...

Next comes "Occhio dell'alba" (Eye of dawn) that describes the birth of a legend. Margaratha and her husband went back to the Netherlands in 1902 where they separated. In 1903 she moved to Paris where she began her artistic career as an exotic dancer under the name of Mata Hari, an Indonesian name that means "eye of dawn". Her provocative style and her free-willed attitude made her a very popular woman... "The last veil of sin sets my wings free / Upon me, upon me, only upon me / Endless shapes alight upon me...".

The excellent "Fascino proibito" (Prohibited charm) describes in a poetical way the mystery of Margaretha's charm. The music and lyrics evoke perfumes and colours, wonderful flowers and falling leaves, the whirling game of senses... "It's desire that condemns and hurts the soul...". Next comes "Eleganza perfetta" (Perfect elegance) where the emphatic vocals of Simona Rigano draw the amazing portrait of a sensual woman, fragile and strong in the meantime... "I'm waiting for your fragile instinct / I'm getting lost in the sunrise that lights my eyes / And in the silence that surrounds me I can shine again... Venus no longer rules my senses / It was Venus who was caressing my smile, my face...".

"H 21" is titled after the code name that the German secret services gave to Margaretha during World War I. Charm is a key that can open many doors, there's richness and madness in this track where tension and sensuality shine through all along the way... "In the apparent perfection I will deceive the most attentive eye / Please, let me dance once more / Let me hide the cold loneliness behind my fragile body...".

"Doppio gioco" (Double-crossing) describes the feelings of Margaretha on the last night before the end of her career as a spy... "Two scraps of velvet cover my body / One is black, soft and elegant / Its colour is defined by a subtle embroidery / The other is red, worn and torn / By the fierce flames that fate has thrown at me... This is the last dance / This is the last night...". "Da sola" (Alone) is a suggestive, reflective track that describes the feelings of Margaretha with reference to the change in her fate and to the charges against her... "I live in the infinite space of my ideas / I turn away from me the fear of the dark, of apparent loneliness...".

The last track, "Ad occhi alti" (With a proud look), closes the circle. Margareth is alone in her cell before the execution. She has been condemned and in a few hours she will be killed by a French firing squad. Her thoughts go back in time, her life has flown away like a raging river but she's not ashamed of what she's done. She can go to her randez-vous with the death with a proud look... "As the evening falls, so cold and dark / Ice takes hold of my body, once charming / I get ready for the last act / After all I was just... Mata Hari".

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Once more Conqueror's line-up meant to meet some further shakes.Guitarist Mario Pollino had been a member of the band before ''Sprazzi Di Luce'', replacing Tino Nastasi, but only for the first time he headed to a studio recording with the group.Daniele Bambino was replaced at the dawn of 2009 by Andrea Trimarchi, who spent about six months with the band, before leaving his place to Gianluca Villa.This core recorded the fourth full-length album of Conqueror ''Madame Zelle'' at Ludnica Studio in Santa Teresa di Riva with Ottavio Leo as a sound engineer (he helped the band on guitars in the previous EP).It was released in 2010 on MaRaCash Records and marked another concept work by the band.Who the hell is Madame Zelle though?No other than Margaretha Geertruida Zelle aka Mata Hari, the Dutch dancer who was accused as being a spy during during World War I.

More or less Conqueror's style remains grounded in modern Symphonic Rock fields, however there are a few new introductions in their sound.Firstly there are some Ethnic touches during the listening and generally the folky content of the album is quite pronounced compared to the previous albums, propably to advance Mata Hari's connection with exotic and Ethnic dances.Second comes the constant use of Sabrina Rigano's flute, which is another reason the album tends to the Symphonic/Folk Rock side.Do not expect though something close to Prog Folk, the music is still 100% Symphonic Rock with dominant keyboard passages and ethereal melodies, while the rockier sensibilities appear once more in the more guitar-based parts.Simona Rigano's voice is again the absolute trademark of Conqueror: Crystalline, flawless and absolutely efficient singing.''Madame Zelle'' contains long, instrumental themes with beautiful guitar melodies, varied flute work, either with Classical or more traditional acoustics, and bombastic keyboards.The excellent production reveals the sheer dynamics of the album, which moreover contains lots of careful interplays and complex passages.But melody and groove still remain Conqueror's main elements in this new effort.

Another solid work by one of the best Italian bands of the recent era.Nice concept, solid music and pretty amazing vocals.No less than strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Another revelation from Italy. This is my first ever album from Conqueror, but it will most certainly not be the last. This band really impresses me. I am a bit of a fan of sugar. Too much in fact. My doctor has told me to stop eating sugary stuff. Madame Zelle is full of sugar. Very suga ... (read more)

Report this review (#294238) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Thursday, August 12, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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