Monday 24 September 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Conan, "Existential Void Guardian"

By; Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 14/09/2018
Label: Napalm Records


“Existential Void Guardian” CD//DD//2LP track listing:

1.Prosper On The Path
2.Eye To Eye To Eye
4.Amidst The Infinite
5.Volt Thrower
7.Eternal Silent Legend

The Review:

The foremost disciples of tone are back with this superbly titled fourth full length studio record. Ever since “Horseback Battle Hammer”, Conan have carved out their own niche and become hugely influential in doing so. Amp and pedal worship was never the same after these guys, but really it is the music that matters here. Conan have done the almost impossible and become a kind of Iron Maiden-esque entity within the doom scene. They don't sound like anyone else, have their own unique artwork, tour endlessly and write about things their audience is interested in. They are unique and whilst being labelled “doom” they operate in a field of one.

Opener “Prosper On The Path” is massive in sound, the contrasted vocals of Jon Davis and Chris Fielding work superbly and the drum sound is absolutely immense- the playing of Johnny King also deserves mention as it has slotted right in with the band and added an extra dimension to their sound. Conan work their magic by weaving soundscapes and moods rather than catchy tunes. It's riff worship, it's “the sound” but despite all their success (and what is effectively brand identity), they won't be troubling the radio airwaves anytime soon. Provided this is no problem for you, then the likes of “Eye to Eye to Eye” will bludgeon you effectively and introduce no small amount of time changes into the bargain. The throwaway grind of “Paincantation” is a huge departure, but only a brief one. The rest of the album takes things back to low and slow territory- with fast bits, of course- that have been part of the sub-genre since Sabbath.

Interestingly, there is nothing that extends beyond seven minutes here and of the seven tracks, perhaps “Amidst The Infinite” feels epic- but is not necessarily so. Certainly, the tempos are low and the riffs are creeping horrors in places. Chris Fielding has excelled himself with the production; it really is fantastic. It is Conan's best sounding record, which is saying something as they have all been sonic terrors. It is as huge as “Blood Eagle” and “Revengeance” but with more clarity and power.

Advance single “Volt Thrower” is the most immediate track on here, with its off kilter rhythms and head nodding groove, finding the band sounding almost like High on Fire and is a great track. It's vicious as well as huge. “Vexxagon” is similarly insistent and swinging and again shows Conan to be more catchy than you might have expected. Truly, this is headbanging stuff.

Just like that, the beastly bass groove of “Eternal Silent Legend” ushers in the last track on the record. Only seven tracks, but is there any need for more? For me, a little of Conan can go a long way; six tracks proper is about right. The live bonuses are well performed and sound fantastic- but they are superfluous to requirements and are just cool to hear/nice to have as add ons... come to think of it, they are quite literally bonuses!

All fans will have their favourite Conan album. For me, it is “Blood Eagle” and “Existential Void Guardian” has not changed that so far. It is a close second, I'll say that. I prefer this to both “Monnos” and “Revengeance” as it shows the band doing what they do best. If anyone wanted to hear Conan for the first time, I could not argue with directing them to this masterful work. I am enjoying the record hugely; I'm reviewing this after buying the CD. I heard the stream, liked it and wanted to own it. I'm glad I did, as Conan need all our support if heavy music is to press on effectively. We need leaders as well as followers. They have become standard bearers of sorts and even if you don't like them... you know them when you hear them. Such is their power and the source of appeal. They have “something” and have managed to capture that “something” in the studio again. No mean feat.

“Existential Void Guardian” is available here

Band info: Facebook || Bandcamp