It is often true, and for the most part for the best, that music journalism praises the innovative and the unique. But there are bands that come along with the simple goal of reveling in the best moments of their chosen subgenre’s history, and they deserve recognition too. Conan seems to be such a band. Their heroes aren’t hard to guess, with heaping servings of Sleep and High On Fire all over the place, with bits of Floor and Electric Wizard added to the mix as well. Conan‘s latest album Revengeance is out this week on Napalm Records (get it from Amazon), and the British trio will kick off a North American tour in the spring.
Revengeance is pure amplifier worship and riff porn. As soon as album opener “Throne of Fire” starts, the listener is confronted by the band’s utterly massive sound. The song starts off with a faster section, a tool Conan utilize at various times throughout the album to break up the slower passages that are their primary modus, but they know very well where their strength lies. Every song dives headlong into massive bouts of doom riffage at some point.
Those aforementioned doom sections vary in tempo but not in visceral impact. “Thunderhoof” starts off at a slow but steady chug, while “Wrath Gauntlet” stuns the listener at a crawling pace, like someone dragging themselves by their fingertips across the floor of a desert. The title track, shockingly, contains some almost black metal-style blast beats, before diving into some High On Fire-inspired mid-paced material. The song eventually closes, as one should expect, with another epic doom riff.
For all the time (six songs, 47 minutes) Conan spends in superficially similar sonic territory, Revengeance never gets tedious. Perhaps it is the ever-changing vocal textures of the group, finding a sweet spot between glorious Floor-esque melodies and Melvins-inspired mid-range punk yelling, while a lower pitched voice invokes Neurosis‘ Dave Edwardson. Or maybe it’s just how the album sounds, the elevation of the power chord that’s held sway over audiences since rock ‘n’ roll first transmuted into rock at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, with bands like Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Iron Butterfly and Sir Lord Baltimore.
If you hate this particular brand of metal, you should steer clear, but for doom metal’s faithful fans, Conan is an efficient delivery mechanism for exactly what they crave. The trio points to sword and sorcery movies, video games, and amplifiers as primary sources of inspiration. As unrefined as that artistic worldview might come across, they are nonetheless able to achieve the same sort of mystical exaltation often attributed to more experimental acts such as Sunn O))), albeit through sheer single-minded focus…and an enormous wall of sound. Conan‘s music delivers on multiple levels, both highbrow and low, satisfying the listener in every way possible.