On this new musical journey this blog is going on we’ve been to to darkest reaches of space, to the underbelly of New York City, and straight into the bowels of Hell itself, so strange and unusual destinations aren’t outside of our options when exploring this vast new world of writing too many words describing things nobody cares about. Now let’s enter the dark fantasy realm of Hyboria!
Conan, for the uninitiated, is a crushingly heavy doom band from Liverpool, England. What does “crushingly heavy” mean, exactly? Well, for starters, they tune their instruments to drop F, which means the guitars come in just a hair higher pitched than a standard tuned bass, and Conan‘s bass sits nearly a whole octave below normal. Old interviews reveal that they tirelessly obsess over the gear they play and maintain it as thoroughly as possible to retain every last ounce of volume and bass response as possible to create the heaviest, biggest sound possible. As someone who dabbles in amplifier worship, I gotta respect that hustle.
Get Down With The Thiccness
I’m gonna say it right now, Existential Void Guardian is the thiccest album of 2018, end of story.
“Prosper on the Path” opens things up with snakey riffing and Jon Davis’ signature reverb-laden mountaintop belting. Drums kick in heavy and faster than anticipated; this is a newly rejuvenated Conan. Gone are the days of Horseback Battle Hammer with its glacially slow eleven minute songs. We’re dealing with five and six minute bruisers that move with the nimbleness of a punk band without any less heft behind them. The slow, foreboding doom isn’t completely shed from Existential Void Guardian as sections of “Eye to Eye to Eye” and “Amidst the Infinite” feeling like molasses is pouring out of your speakers. Speaking of this newfound speed Conan seem to find themselves with, the third track on this album “Paincantation” will take anyone by surprise. The song clocks in at under a minute, and contains (gasp) blastbeats. That’s right, Conan just wrote a grindcore song, and it fucking rips.
Caveman Battle Funk
So despite these new sounds being integrated into the mix, Existential Void Guardian is still built upon the classic sound we’ve grown to love over the last decade. Low and slow doom with dopey sword and sorcery lyrics add up to an album that sounds like how a volcano looks. Conan themselves call their music Caveman Battle Doom, and while I’m not big on bands making up hyper-niche genre names for themselves, I think this one is used pretty tongue in cheek and is surprisingly apt. Nobody sounds quite like Conan, with their high fantasy stylings and dead simple songwriting and general primitive aesthetic I wouldn’t use any other made up bullshit sub-sub-genre.
Primitive as Existential Void Guardian may be overall, I think the energy really comes from Conan‘s new drummer Johnny King. There are times when he is left to shine while the rest of the band steps back, and boy does he propel these tunes forward. The second half of the album gets downright funky with some neat syncopation and grooves. “Vexxagon” and album closer “Eternal Silent Legend” bring the funk hard with the drumming, while the rest of the band purposefully showcase their new dynamo. Long, held power chords and amplifier feedback wrap around King’s fun drumming, reminiscent of Chris Hakius on Sleep‘s Dopesmoker but way more toe-tappingly catchy. It’ll get your head boppin’, that’s no problem, but it is also surprisingly no nonsense. It’s not flashy or distracting at all. King, while apparently driving this new contrast in Conan‘s latest offering, serves the songs before anything else.
What Is Best In Life?
In my opinion, Conan has stuck gold with Existential Void Guardian. It’s fun, it’s quick, and it’s chest-cavingly heavy. I remember enjoying their 4 song EP Horseback Battle Hammer, but with nearly three times more songs and a runtime just a smidge longer, this band seem to have transitioned pretty smoothly into a more accessible act without losing their personal flair. I’d wager some young metalhead who just learned about doom metal will stumble upon Existential Void Guardian, fall in love and then check out Conan’s early work with eager eyes and ears. Word is our monolithic Liverpudlians are already planning a new album for 2019. I guess they’ve been inspired by their own shift in sound, and I for one am very happy for it.
Conan. What is best in life? To crunch your amps, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their speakers!