The few times I have seen them live, Conan have effectively and massively crushed me physically whilst uplifting me spiritually, the sick and twisted puppy that I am. Capturing those gloriously colossal, reverberating doom tones onto recordings though is no easy task. Case in point their recent “Mount Wrath: Live at Roadburn” release, (a gig I had to leave early due to not being able to take it any more!) still a pleasurable listen but not as holistically punishing as the amped up / in your face version.
But when the opening, lumbering riff of “Crown of Talons” commences this album, you know they are definitely making their best efforts with this first major label release. It’s almost a languid, casual start – a super-tanker drift of a riff, but when the drums punch in your attention is already grabbed. As you are lulled along you could almost miss the sparse vocals coming in, a distant layer of a voice lost in a black void, the distortion across the board adds up to a veritable rumbling avalanche of fractured noise. This 10 minute epic ends up with a devastatingly repeated single note, just stating their case, marking their cards, laying to waste.
Wasteland is what is conjured up in the mind, very much the epic after the battle grand leveling also hinted at by their lyrics and art. They could almost have satisfyingly left it at that but there’s still the rest of the groove and millstone grind of remainder of the album. They inject a bit of speed at times, as again I had felt there was occasionally a more punky approach to some of their recent live stuff, but this is seamlessly shifted into their molten core of chronically distorted doom riff workouts.
With stripped down riffing there’s can almost be an element of familiarity at times, the steam roller chug of Bolt Thrower comes to mind at the start of “Horns for Teeth”. The recent single “Foehammer” covers all these varied bases really well, but the whole album is a celebration of sonic displeasure, these Liverpudlians dragging the original Sabbath riff religion down some further dark alleys and caverns. They should be celebrated for that, and the fact that you can see them at virtually every (credible) festival going this summer suggests that they are.