Monday, 24 February 2014

Conan – Blood Eagle (album review)

Cover artwork by Tony Roberts.
Conan is one of my favorite bands.  When I first discovered doom metal, I did it from the ground floor up, by sampling the bands that made the genre: Trouble, Witchfinder General, Saint Vitus and then Pentagram, before dipping a toe into the churning waters of today’s ceaseless flow of new bands.  Conan was the first of the newer bands that I heard that I thought had the potential to have as lasting a legacy as the greats of yesteryear, to be seen 30 years on the way I see those bands listed above.  It’s destiny etched on a crude, blunt weapon.  In short, Conan are a living legend, or at the very least, one in the making.  Their first album, ‘Monnos’ was very good.  Solid stuff to be sure.  The forthcoming ‘Blood Eagle’ is a king-making kind of album.

‘Blood Eagle’ cuts right down to the heart of Conan’s sound, pulsating, pounding, rumbling and most of all, driving.  A death-dealing barbarian stalking with purpose through the canyon pass, one foot in front of the other, knowing the marauders will ambush but ever-vigilant, meaty hand on hilt.  Vocalist / guitarist Jon Davis pens monosyllabic lyrics with clear, precise and uncomplicated meaning, thinking like a Neolithic warrior.  On ‘Blood Eagle’ the music follows suit.  The results are devastating.  This is the album Conan was meant to produce.  I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the band has lived up to its Full Potential here.

Conan doesn't do anything unfamiliar on 'Blood Eagle', those elements that we’ve come to expect from the band are simply heightened, the band’s instincts sharpened.  Played at full volume, Conan’s buzzing heaviness is at a vision-inducing, religious experience level.  When Phil Coumbe’s bass kicks in two minutes into opening number “Crown of Talons” it is positively brain rattling.  The last minute or so of the nearly 10 minute opener is exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s the closest thing to a physical beat down that music can get, just a relentless wash of hammering strikes.  A tone setter indeed, that sensibility is carried over across the entire album.  ‘Monnos’ was split between driving, war-torn action and battle-weary contemplation.  ‘Blood Eagle’ is a tireless campaign of conquest and decimation.

Conan is a band of musical weapons, the more simplistic, the more brutal, the better.  In Conan’s world, engines of war are elephant powered, armor consists of leather and one’s only shield is the wits a pitiless god has granted them.  You won’t hear any psychedelic soundscapes on this album.  Quiet moments of reflection are what happens when the bone-tired victor takes a sip from a blood-clouded watering hole after battle.  Conan’s weapons are bludgeoning and honest.  “Gravity Chasm” embodies this aesthetic, heavy fuzz spikes between smashing drum strikes.  “Horns for Teeth” chugs masterfully at headbanging pace, choking out the listener with changing tempos, dragging out the final moment, easing up then pressing harder.  The lead single, “Foehammer” introduces a table spoon of rhythmic complexity to the album and at no loss to its overall mood [Watch the video below].

Mention should also be made of Davis’s new Skyhammer Studios.  ‘Blood Eagle’ wasn’t the first album to be recorded at the newborn studio (if memory serves that honor went to Serpent Venom), but this is the first album to emerge from Skyhammer that I've heard.  It sounds excellent, resonant and full-bodied with mastering to match.  Depth is at a surplus making 'Blood Eagle' a 44 series of ever-increasing peaks.

An album like this only comes around once every few years and I suspect it’ll be awhile before we hear one as good, as on-point with a band’s sound as this one is.  Whatever you do, don’t miss ‘Blood Eagle’, it’s a sure-fire classic, the crowning achievement of a world-beating band in stride, one that legends are made of.  It’s a document of a band at one with their instruments with a full understanding of what those instruments are capable of, as mentioned above, this was the album Conan was made to produce.

[Also,while waiting for 'Blood Eagle' to hit stores and mailboxes be sure to check out Conan's bandcamp page for a recently released live album right here.]

Highlights include: "Foehammer" and "Crown of Talons"

Rating: 5/5

1). Crown of Talons (9:48)
2). Total Conquest (6:28)
3). Foehammer (4:55)
4). Gravity Chasm (7:57)
5). Horns for Teeth (5:46)
6). Altar of Grief (9:00)
Total Run Time: 43:52

From: Liverpool, England

Genre: Doom, Sludge

Reminds me of: Aleph Null, Crowbar, Eyehategod, Slomatics

Release Date: March 11, 2014

Conan on facebook

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