Wednesday 14 January 2015

Conan/Bongripper Split 12" Reissue (Review)

Album Type: 12" Split
Date Released: 16/1/2015
Label : Black Bow Records/Great Barrier Records

Conan/Bongripper, 12" tracklisting:

Side A) Conan – Beheaded (Remastered)
Side B) Bongripper - Zero Talent (Remastered)


For those with a moderate knowledge of the sludge/doom underground scene, in 2013 there were rumblings, mutterings if you will that two of the scenes best heavyweight sluggers would be pitted against each other. Indeed to coincide with a subsequent UK Co-Headling tour, Holy Records released one colossal slab of wax. Conan and Bongripper did their best to out muscle each other with their own unique down tuned noxious drone assault, which in turn truly overwhelmed you from start to finish.   Now in 2015, with the songs remastered to sound the way they were intended, Black Bow Records and Great Barrier Records are set inflict the punishment once more, with a superb reissue of said Split 12

Rewind back to 2013, both bands had built a hardened and loyal fan base, based upon a strong work ethic and a DIY approach to their music, jaw dropping performances and subsequent live album releases, this marriage of drone was in many ways a perfect match.  The refrain of the album cover art alone evokes a message that both bands concentrate on the music.   Real amps, real guitars, real drums, real people and let us not forget the bass, ooh the bass!  This split is music based upon the love of taking the power of the 'heavy' into realms it has never been. 

The Split 12" clocks in at an impressive 26 minutes, Conan and their track 'Beheaded' kicks things off with solid drum work from former drummer Paul O' Neil being faded in low to high,  the quiet din of the guitar and bass feeding back, getting louder until the vitriol of the drone kicks in.  It is what we have come to expect from Conan, large lumbering thick elephantine riffs, strings like worms flailing under vibrato; you need a gauge like iron rope to deal with this level of down tuning.  A simple chord progression reverberates for 3 mins until the dual vocals kick in, raging like disharmonious siblings spitting venom and fury at each other.  What could be more brilliant than that? Ahem, the fact the track has another 14 minutes to go.

The track has an uncanny knack to get you spasmodically nodding along, yes it has a pace similar to a lumbering sloth, but the noise of guitars and bass just bombards the listener.  It is an onslaught and not so much a beheading but an act of grievous bodily harm, beating you black and blue.  A 17 minute bar room brawl and nobody is getting out alive.  It is not just about the guitars and bass, Paul O'Neil is a master of the slow perfect beat, with measured fills adding tonality to the track and he holds everything together succinctly.  It is not a showy performance; however he hits the skins like a cleaver to meat.

'Beheaded' is a fission reactor designed and intent on liberating as many audible sound waves as possible.  In turn such audibility causes the reactor to explode and that is exactly what Conan has done.  ‘Beheaded’ is a monumental atomic mass and from where I am standing it looks beautiful.    This symphony of destruction looks beautiful.

What can be said about Bongripper that hasn't already been said? ‘Satan Worshipping Doom’ as a standalone record and their subsequent performance of this revered record at Roadburn a few years back, in my mind can go down in history as a bonafide classic record and live performance in equal measure.  Nobody seems to have heard of them outside the underground scene and yet within our ranks, their records are unquestionably sort after, with numerous subsequent represses.

With the track 'Zero Talent', Chicago's finest instrumental wrecking crew serve up another brilliant addition to their ever expanding list of jaw dropping releases.  Having honed their craft from the more experimental leanings of albums such as ‘Heroin’, Bongripper's more recent output has leaned more on the side of doom.  Slow, dense, down tuned riffs.  I don't need to tell you this right? 

The opening of the track has a kinda sci fi vibe with the apparent use of electronica, accentuating the sound of feedback (at least that is what my ears hear) until 'boom' the band kick in.  The sound of Bongripper we all know and love.  We are met with a brilliant 8 or 9 note riff, which wouldn't feel out of place on S.W.D. indeed this track almost feels like an extenuation from that record.  It is a standalone track and yet it bears many similarities. Slow heaviness that builds and builds, then stops then builds again.   The tone of the riffs are slow, evil and menacing. 

What is amazing on this track is when the riff is played out and then band, stop!!! And then the riff starts again and stops abruptly again.  Truly brilliant.  Imagine yourself standing on the edge of cliff and someone pushes you and you're pulled back.  This passage feels just like that.  The riff creates atmosphere, building tension, getting those palms sweating, feeling almost claustrophobic. 

The production quality and sound in the mix is stunning.  Guitars sound fat and weighty, just 'Ah' so incredibly sinister and unnerving.  Like S.W.D. which evokes a sense of foreboding and anxiety.  At the 4:10 mark, Bongripper bring things down even slower, with the beat of kick drum thudding your temples and the din of atmospherics which wouldn't feel out of place in a John Carpenter movie.  Like a swirling horrific fog enveloping you.  Guitars and bass are a raw and dirty, with Bongripper unwilling to refrain from easing the tension.  For the next 3 mins or so this builds until we get into a black metal vibe, not to dissimilar to the opening of their track 'Satan'. Then finally and for the last time, the fat riffs kick in for the final throes of the track. 

If these guys have 'Zero Talent' then the rest of their peers better hang up their instruments now, because noise this good doesn't come easy and on this form Bongripper are top of the pile.  A fantastic end to a monumental split release.  Two heavyweights of the scene, two killer tunes, one massive Split 12". A definite must have.  So if you missed the initial 300 pressings of this record, go buy it, buy 'em all!! DIY or Die!!

 Words by : Aaron Pickford

Pressing info:  

500 on Dookie Brown
500 on Translucent Beer (A side) & Bronze (B side) w/ Both Trans and Opaque Red Splatter 
Beheaded (remastered at Skyhammer Studio by Chris Fielding).
Zero Talent (remastered at Comatose Studio by Dennis Pleckham).

Please Note:

This release will be handled by both bands.
Each band will have 250 of each colour variant for sale.
Bongripper will handle orders for North America, South America, and Australia
Conan will handle orders for Europe, Asia, and Africa on their store

Tune below are not the remastered tracks.