Archive for October, 2013
One of my favorite bands to come along in the last few years is CONAN.
This U.K.-based power trio gives a whole new meaning to the word heavy, but without “Cookie Monster” vocals or the demonic noise-worship that often plagues today’s heaviest acts.
CONAN have even coined their own genre, calling themselves “caveman battle doom.” For hardcore fans, this is simply a new sub-category of the “Doom Rock” scene. For the rest of us, it’s an amusingly accurate description of CONAN’s unique sound. As the band’s own bio puts it: “CONAN are as heavy as interplanetary thunder amplified through the roaring black hole anus of Azathoth.” TheObelisk.net christened them “Europe’s heaviest battle-sloths…” It doesn’t get much cooler than that.
Both albums are perfect for headbanging, slow-grooving, couch-tripping, or simply cranking up loud enough to vibrate the walls of your apartment. And your skull. They are super sludgy brilliance in the vein of early BLACK SABBATH, KYUSS, MELVINS, and TOOL. Call it “stoner rock” if you will, but absolutely no drugs are necessary.
Songs like “Golden Axe,” “Battle in the Swamp,” “Grim Tormentor,” “Krull,” “Dying Giant,” and “Invincible Throne” not only sound like chapters from epic fantasy novels, they FEEL epic when you blast them through your rumbling speakers. Every song lumbers like a reptilian colossus moving through a tar-pit. They rise like titans from a burning primeval sea. They tread the jeweled kingdoms of the earth under monolithic iron heels.
Paradoxically, CONAN are so heavy they’re almost mellow. This band doesn’t bother playing fast; they only have two speeds: Slow and Mid-Tempo. Their trademark sound is the deep roar of the celestial abyss, the wailing of lost souls rising from the battlefield into the golden halls of Valhalla, the battle cry of a Cimmerian plunging his blade deep into the skull of a nameless horror.
Guitarist/Vocalist Jon Davis wails from a storm-wracked mountaintop, and his voice echoes through valleys of volcanic rock and flame. Walls of distortion rise dark and glimmering into the sky, while drummer Paul O’Neil chips away at the earth’s foundations with his steady, driving beats. Bassist/Backing Vocalist Phil Coumbe syncs a molten layer of sonic sludge to Davis’ booming power chords, driving the band’s sound deep into the heart of creation and out the other side.
CONAN isn’t just heavy for the sake of being heavy. They are genuinely trippy, as psychedelic as they are metallic. Their newest track, “Beheaded,” is a 17-minute aural odyssey that appears only on a double split release with Chicago’s BONGRIPPER. They also have tracks on “CONAN vs. Slomatics” an earlier split release with Irish doom-rockers SLOMATICS, including the songs “Retaliator”, “Obsidian Sword,” and “Older Than Earth.”
All the artwork for CONAN’s past and present releases is by the super-talented Anthony Roberts. Sometimes an artist’s style fits perfectly with a band’s sound, and this is definitely one of those instances. Roberts’ illustrations are joyously old-school, like images from mid-century pulp fantasy novels or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons manuals with a dose of 1970s Heavy Metal.
There are only a handful of rock bands I can listen to while I’m writing: Black Sabbath, KYUSS, The Sword, Elder, Danzig, Black Sleep of Kali. A few others. Now I’ve gleefully added CONAN to that list.
“Monnos” and “Horseback Battle Hammer” are inspiring masterworks of sonic-powered high-concept doom rock. Maybe CONAN’s sound appeals to the ancient warrior in me just dying to get out and swing a battle axe. Or (more likely) the Eternal Storyteller forever in search of the next Great Tale. Here is inspiration loud as thunder and deep as oceans.
Can’t wait to see these guys play live…
UPDATE: CONAN recently signed with Napalm Records’ Spinning Goblin sub-label, joining legendary acts such as MONSTER MAGNET and THE SWORD.