Written by: AP on 10/02/2016 14:27:25

In thinking about how to lead into this review, it struck me that the best preamble might be something as simple as a warning, for listeners without a predisposition to the grimiest forms of doom are unlikely to be converted by Conan’s third album “Revengeance”. Slow, heavy, repetitive — these are all adjectives useful for characterising modern stoner flavoured doom, but in relation to Conan’s self-confessed ‘caveman battle doom’, those words seem to lose their meaning. The trio is slower, heavier and more iterative than virtually any of their peers; they revel in being an acquired taste, yet paradoxically, seem to grow bigger and more successful with each passing release. Rather than attribute this to an increasing amount of connoisseurs who like their metal moving at a glacial pace and served with the graciousness of a wrecking ball however, the real reason behind Conan’s surging popularity stems from evolution. With “Revengeance”, the band lifts its music above just being seismically heavy, and onto a plateau where the songs sound much more considered.

For people unaccustomed to Conan’s strain of extremity, it might be tempting to dismiss the primitive style of the album as music for simpletons. Quite right, if it is prodigious guitar solos or dizzying rhythmic patterns that you crave, then stop reading now. Conan’s allure is rather derived from the psychedelic effect of looping, dragging through one crushing riff after another, and from the atavistic atmosphere to which guitarist Jon Davis & bassist Chris Fielding’s alternating high/low-end roars give rise. Throw in lyricism exploring Norse mythology, Vikings and ancient warcraft, and Conan does indeed give an impression of what cavemen might sound like with a guitar, bass and drums as their tools. Only this time, there is newfound dynamism to the trio’s songwriting now the newly added Fielding, and especially Rich Lewis behind the drums have left their mark, and because Davis feels comfortable at last, in lacing the soundscape with touches of grandeur. As a consequence, the band’s lumbering tectonics move more freely than on either of 2014’s “Blood Eagle” or 2012’s “Monnos”, unfolding not just through the pacy staccato drumming, frenzied blastbeats and tribal embroidery housed in “Throne of Fire”, “Revengeance” and “Every Man is an Enemy”, but also well defined riffs and unsettling injections of melody.

That is not to say that Conan’s music has suddenly transformed into easy listening, however. Both the aptly titled “Thunderhoof” and “Wrath Gauntlet” continue the slogging legacy of Conan’s first two records, and you wonder whether Davis & Fielding’s greatest accomplishment in these songs was remembering to shift key or simply strike a new chord after a protracted section of grim, down-tuned, numbingly repeating power chords. These songs are so mindlessly sluggish and heavy, they must have been written at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Even so, however, the eerie magnetism that pervades the other five songs exists here too, tying them around the album’s essence which culminates in the near-12-minute colossus “Earthenguard”. Noting that everything is of course relative, the song’s ‘melodicism’ and monumental style epitomise Conan’s willingness to move forward without sacrificing their all-consuming aesthetic; it should please their existing fans, but there are more palatable reasons now for new ears to catch on as well. If anything, “Revengeance” is a promise of greater things to come — not capable of blowing minds just yet, but nonetheless the sort of record that is difficult to stop listening to; its caustic density encompasses all.

Download: Throne of Fire, Every Man is an Enemy, Earthenguard
For the fans of: Electric Wizard, Monolord, Suma, Ufomammut
Listen: Facebook

Release date 29.01.2016
Napalm Records

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