Existential Void Guardian

Written by: AP on 31/10/2018 21:39:05

Few other bands have been so right in describing the style of their own music as Conan. Dubbing it ‘caveman battle doom’, the Scouser trio has spent the past twelve years vying to be the heaviest band on Earth, testing the Richter scale with ever slower, ever more crushing renditions of stoner metal. Conan’s 2016 album, “Revengeance” took that philosophy a bit too far, sacrificing nearly all that is aesthetically pleasing in its chasing the next superlative that might be used to describe the band. It had a certain hypnotising quality to it, granted, but it also made it clear that the Liverpool-based outfit would have to stray from their path soon lest they become a parody of themselves. Fresh ideas were thus brought to the table for this fourth and latest album, “Existential Void Guardian”, which finds Conan delving into sludge metal and even grindcore in order to diversify their output.

Make no mistake — very little of the sonic weight has actually been shed. But the rumble of songs like the opener, “Prosper on the Path”, no longer resembles an earthquake as much as the engine of a poorly aged tractor. The tone is rusty and serrated, giving rise to an intensity that was often missing from the lumbering on “Revengeance”, and bringing Conan closer to kinship with Georgians like Black Tusk than their British brethren in the likes of Electric Wizard. This is especially so when Johnny King rolls out a faster drumbeat for guitarist Jon Davis and bassist Chris Fielding to lay their riffs onto, with particularly the 55-second battering that is “Paincantation” and “Volt Thrower”, the groove of which seems to have been meticulously tuned to a headbanging frequency, really standing out in this regard. But while these two tracks (and to some extent also “Eye to Eye to Eye”) unveil an aspect of Conan hitherto submerged within the musical equivalent of molten lead, it is nonetheless when the band slows the tempo to a crawl and drops riffs that seldom make it past the first three frets that one truly pays attention. The primitive down nature of songs like “Vexxagon” is designed to appeal to the primate that lives in all of us by attaching an animal magnetism to sounds that any reasonable person would consider ‘anti-music’.

The trouble with “Existential Void Guardian” is that most of it finds the band treading water, leaning up against ideas that have long since lost their shock factor. What’s worse, Conan have divested the music of those psychedelic touches that made “Revengeance” and especially 2014’s “Blood Eagle” tick, opting for a more stripped-down approach that frankly lacks imagination. It’s back to riffs and roars in all but the closing track, “Eternal Silent Legend”, which sticks out like a sore thumb by virtue of its airy tone and mysterious atmosphere, and while those riffs and roars have already proved to be sufficient in the live setting, it sounds too monotonous when experienced through headphones or speakers. Alas, the promise of progression that I identified in “Revengeance” is thus left to linger on, as Conan delivers a barrage of easily forgotten aural devastation, the few exceptions to which ultimately prove ineffective with regard to charting a new course for this stagnating band.


Download: Volt Thrower, Vexxagon, Eternal Silent Legend
For the fans of: Black Tusk, Bongripper, Monolord, Slomatics
Listen: Facebook

Release date 14.09.2018
Napalm Records

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