It takes a lot of balls to call your metal band CONAN, much as it would KULL, RED SONJA, KA-ZAR, FAFHRD or, shudder to think, GROO — even if there is an ATTILA out there and a couple of KUBLAI KHAN’s over the course of time in the genre’s history. The British metal trio CONAN (at one time a duo) have not only the balls but the geeky wherewithal to play bombastic doom metal self-described as “interplanetary thunder amplified through the roaring black-hole anus of Azathoth.” Ensure the chain is tight on your mace, you’re in for a mean ride and expected to defend yourself haughtily.
Fortunately, this CONAN backs up their bark. They’ve been through lineup changes, the most recent being a new drummer, Rich Lewis, who takes over for departed Paul O’Neil. The band’s latest effort, “Revengenace”, is a six-song, tone-clubbed bale of “caveman battle doom.” Broadswords obligatory.
CONAN wastes no time dropping hammers all over the rapid opener, “Throne of Fire”, mingling brisk, pounding tempos with slower measures and raining ginormous bass and guitar riffs all over the thing. The slogging 9:38 “Thunderhoof” pulls out a full arsenal of CANDLEMASS and WITCHFINDER GENERAL riffs, strummed slowly and deafeningly as Jon Davis (guitars/vocals) and Chris Fielding (bass/vocals) shriek and holler respectively like madmen without conscience. Frankly, the drag goes on forever, getting even slower in the later moments while unfathomably turning the amps even higher.
If you haven’t had enough punishment by this point, the eight minute “Wrath Guard” is yet slower. It doesn’t quite hit SUNN O))) and EARTH’s drone turf, but gets really damned close, and CONAN adds long-held chord squeals, gory bass grenades and a trundling tempo pushed nearly as loud as the guitars.
The title track swings the album briefly back onto a more palatable course with a heaving power groove. Of course, you can expect CONAN to kick that groove off the cliff into the waiting maw of a mutant terraform with a slow digestion tract. These guys are about painstaking doom, and they find any excuse to drop to agonizing paces, even when jacking things up to a jumpy march on the first half of “Every Man is an Enemy”.
CONAN’s main fault is their predictability. “Revengenance” is as heavy as you can take it, bloodier than either of their namesake’s battle axe. You know by instinct this album is going to wrap on an eleven-minute doom marathon, “Earthenguard”, which grows monstrously layered the further it dwells. Nonetheless, more than a couple pints of mead are prerequisite to hanging through this largely slow sonic abuse.