29th January 2016 – Napalm Records
01. Throne of Fire
03. Wrath Gauntlet
05. Every Man is an Enemy
Conan, champions of tinnitus-inducing capital-D Doom and darlings of the UK scene, are noisy, messy and belligerent. They’re are at a stage of their career where, having defined their sound, they’re are in a position to develop and enhance it. With the help of a change in personnel and the strength of new album Revengeance, they have succeeded and helped to solidify their status in the scene at the same time.
Conan are one of the most satisfying bands in recent history, largely due to the fact that they fit into a narrative of ‘extreme’ music which fits very comfortably with what draws a lot of metal fans to the genre in the first place. Before I’d ever heard their music I remember a friend enthusiastically telling me about a band that played through an obscene amount of amps, the effect of which everyone agreed was the most cathartic experience of their lives.
This dedication to sound quality with no regard to local noise pollution regulations is in keeping with a current hunger for doom, sludge and some off-the-beaten-track metal in the UK, with the rise of festivals like Desertfest and the unfuckwithable Temples. The everything-louder-than-everything-else philosophy may not be new, but Conan’s application to doom at such a perfect time is a shrewd creative decision and one that’s helped them build both a strong identity and a devoted fanbase.
One of the most significant changes on Revengeance is in the rhythm department. Since Blood Eagle they’ve added drummer Rich Lewis, who makes an incredible LP debut adding not only deft, tasteful(!) fills to longer jams like album closer “Earthenguard“, but also an absolutely ferocious blastbeat(!!) to opening single and title track “Revengeance“.
It’s hard to think of bands like Conan particularly in terms of songwriting when a Conan album or live show is so focused on pure catharsis, but Revengeance has taken a significant step up. I was a huge fan of Blood Eagle and whilst I remembered cuts like “Foehammer” because they dropped a video for it, tracks like “Throne of Fire” and “Every Man is an Enemy” stick out as better-structured, better-realised songs. Significantly, Conan have matured their sound without losing focus or intensity; even the aforementioned 12-minute “Earthenguard” comes across as a cohesive effort rather than a shapeless jam.
Elsewhere on the album, Conan continue doing what’s served them so well in the first place: Jonathan Davies sounds like he’s shouting at you from the bottom of a well; the guitar and bass tones are thunderous, glacial; the riffs are positively tectonic; and they’ve continued the Robert L Howard themes from previous albums, balancing being suitably evocative whilst completely avoiding being as ridiculous as fantasy metal so frequently is. Revengeance is very big and very loud and if these are qualities you look for in music then you will be over the moon.
I may never stop singing the praises of underground UK doom. Monolithian, Bossk, The Drowning, My Silent Wake, Grey Widow – all are bands making ferocious noises – and the continued popularity of acts like Conan helps encourage an atmosphere where fantastic bands like these can find the audience they deserve. Conan are an important band and Revengeance is their strongest material to date; an album to be enjoyed drenched in the blood of your enemies whilst wondering if the tinnitus is permanent.