“Redundant genre, you say? Sorry, can’t hear you over ALL THESE AMPS!” say Conan ever so confidently. Or at least, I imagine that’s what they would say a few moments before bashing your skull in. Yes sir, Conan‘s brand of doom metal is ridiculously heavy and drony – to the point of almost seeming like a gimmick. I was initially concerned with the comparisons to bands such as Electric Wizard, who I find to be needlessly repetitious and boring, but this fear was soon quelled when I heard the subtlety Conan displays in crafting their absolutely massive downtuned riffs and song structures.
Not that I haven’t had experience with this band before – 2012’s Monnos being a decent album, but a bit too bare for my taste. Blood Eagle, however, is a vastly superior record that’s as heavy as it is addicting, without forgetting technicality and tone. Conan get better at this with every successive album and each is more addictive than the last.
But for such a barbaric affair, it’s very impressive how much finesse there is inside their maelstrom. The songs have a constantly moving feel and are so tightly written that none of them wander or meander. What’s more, the fantastic drumwork brings a sense of energy that’s lost by so many doom bands of this ilk. The songwriting is streamlined, but doesn’tlose any of the edge. If anything, Conan display such a great style and sensibility that it makes me question other bands that rely solely on the gimmick of ‘being heavy’ and downtuned. Words really don’t do justice to just how heavy the tone is on this album. Here’s where many bands get it wrong – noisy does not mean heavy. Your true Norwegian black metal cover band can be as loud and as fast as you like, but there’s a fair chance it won’t be heavy.
Conan are HEAVY. Thick, huge riffs utterly dominate the album that convince me that Conan could get away with only having the bottom three strings of their guitars attached. This isn’t an insult, either. You may think this music simplistic and barbaric, but Conan are here to prove there is far more to it; on Blood Eagle they’ve achieved just that.
There are two aspects (aside from the great drums) that make this as addicting and impressive as it is. One is the quality and catchiness of these riffs. This album is a true testament to just how much the tone, the frequencies and the production can add to the memorability and everything about this record delivers. Second are the vocals, which are packed with just as much energy as the rest of the storm. Even though they’re subdued in the mix compared to the guitars, the shouts just sound massive and the album wouldn’t be the same without them.
Each listen reveals more detail too. The catchy “Foehammer” is likely the easiest song to digest, but other tracks such as “Total Conquest” are similarly as appealing. The closing “Altar of Grief” really steals the show with massive massive riffs and a great drum-driven tense build to close the record. Conan has a true appreciation of their craft, building on the foundations with care and none of the crudeness that you’d catch Moss using.
Conan are slowly and definitively proving with each successive release that they’re a force to be reckoned with. Earplugs will not save you. If this turns out to be one of the finer doom metal records of the year, we’re in for a damn good time.