Conan, Existential Void Guardian: Prosperity on the Path

Posted in Reviews on September 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Conan Existential Void Guardian

There’s a dual emphasis happening on Conan‘s fourth full-length in a 13-year run. First, Existential Void Guardian, which is also their third LP for Napalm Records, calls to mind just how recognizable Conan‘s sound is. They’ve subtly drawn back on some of the overbearing tonal onslaught over the years, which one can hear in songs like “Eye to Eye to Eye” in comparison to their earlier work on 2012’s debut, Monnos (review here), or the preceding 2010 EP, Horseback Battle Hammer (review here), but Conan remain one of the most immediately recognizable bands in metal, period, let alone doom or whatever other subgenre you might want to stick them in. Existential Void Guardian brings to mind just how much Conan‘s sound has become their own over the course of this decade, and yet it also emphasizes how much that sound is grown.

The pivotal moment might’ve been in 2014 when producer Chris Fielding joined the band following the recording of their second album,  Blood Eagle (review here). Taking on the role of bassist/vocalist alongside founding guitarist/vocalist Jon DavisFielding added not only his recording expertise — brought to bear at Skyhammer Studio, owned by Davis — but also his tonal weight and a vocal foil to Davis, something that Conan had worked to incorporate with original bassist Phil Coumbe but which became all the more essential with the lineup change. The impact of Fielding joining the band could be felt in their live presence and was realized in the studio on 2016’s Revengeance (review here), which updated listeners on the burgeoning dynamic between Davis and Fielding, the former’s higher-register wails complemented by the latter’s lower growls and shouts.

On Existential Void Guardian, with opener “Prosper on the Path” and the midsection of centerpiece/side A closer “Amidst the Infinite” as well as the later “Vexxagon” as particular examples, the two find a kind of shouted vocal harmony, and as Fielding takes the lead role in closer “Eternal Silent Legend,” there are more than hints of melody in his approach that even further expand the reach of the group on the whole. In kind with the contributions of drummer Johnny King (also of Dread Sovereign, ex-Altar of Plagues and others), who makes his first appearance on the seven-song/35-minute release, it all makes for Conan‘s most complex outing to-date.

One hesitates to use a word like “progressive” when it comes to Conan. Given the lumber they bring to bear on the aforementioned “Amidst the Infinite” and the gallop of “Eye to Eye to Eye,” it just feels gross and wrong, but there’s no question Existential Void Guardian is the most thoughtful Conan manifestation yet. From its evocative title — is the guardian bringing you into the void? warding off the void? keeping you there? — to the more developed lyrical ideas of “Volt Thrower” or “Prosper on the Path,” one can hear Conan moving away from the one-word-line impressionism they’ve used in the past to conjure images of violent conquering to a fuller mode of expression. Or so it seems without the benefit of a lyric sheet. That’s not to say Existential Void Guardian doesn’t have its raw moments. As “Vexxagon” settles into its final rolling groove, it does so with Davis having spit out quick lines atop the prior cacophony of riffs.

conan

And “Paincantation” is straight-up grindcore. No other word for it. It’s a 55-second blastbeaten assault — and the first 19 seconds of that is a kind of swelling introduction, while the last seven are a ringout — and the focus is pure brutality. It’s an easy pick to say that’s where King makes his presence most felt, as the wash of crash is no less consuming than the miasma of distortion churning at maximum speed overhead, but his snare and tom work in the early cycles of “Vexxagon” and the quick fills he works into the first half of “Prosper on the Path” while still holding to the central plodding rhythm aren’t to be undervalued for the tension they add to the proceedings overall. As he transitions into a kind of gallop in the first-stage of the chorus of the opener, he brings a professionalism of style and a crispness of play that’s clearly rooted in the more extreme end of metal but works nonetheless with the swing that Conan‘s songwriting requires. He’s a more than solid fit alongside Davis and Fielding. Hope he likes touring.

But the point is that as much as Conan have grown, there’s still blood dripping from their battle axe, and as much as the band’s even-year succession of releases — 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and now 2018 — has seen them bring new ideas and personnel into the fold, they’ve continued to hold firm to their ultra-low end and a brutality brought to bear amid the ensuing weight. Even as “Eternal Silent Legend,” which is also the longest inclusion at 6:53, rounds out Existential Void Guardian, with a gradual feedback-topped unfolding that riffs its way into what’s sneakily Davis‘ most melodic vocal performance with the band — trading between a few cleaner lines and a final growl — they do so en route to a massive stomp and rolling finish that’s as much a signature moment as Conan could possibly have. Thus the dual emphasis: they’ve advanced this much while still retaining their core purpose.

Every Conan record seems to be a first of one sort or another. Monnos, of course, was the first album. Blood Eagle the first recorded at SkyhammerRevengeance was the first with Fielding on bass and then-drummer Rich Lewis rounding out trio, and Existential Void Guardian is the first with King. It’s little short of amazing this can be the case while Conan‘s identity has remained so vividly cast. That’s a credit to Davis, of course, as the founder and guiding hand of their ongoing project, but it’s also a result of the natural way they’ve matured.

While conscious, nothing in Conan‘s ongoing progression has felt forced, and at the risk of shoehorning them into a narrative, it seems like their songcraft has become more complex as a result of the time they’ve spent on stage and the development of the chemistry between the players rather than heady studio experimentation. Nothing against that approach, but Conan continues to work so well as a concept because they know who they are and who they want to be, and they always have. Even as those ideas have changed with time, there are crucial elements that have remained cast in stone, and one expects they’ll stay that way as they work to push beyond the void.

Conan, “Volt Thrower” official video

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Conan to Release Existential Void Guardian Sept. 14; Album Details Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

conan

Destruction always has a special place in Conan‘s charred heart. The UK trio’s reputation precedes them at this point, and even if it didn’t, it’s not like you can’t hear their approaching plod from miles away. Their third album was 2016’s Revengeance (review here) and it was beastness as usual for the band, though their dynamic has continued to shift since bassist/vocalist/producer Chris Fielding joined on with founding guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis ahead of 2014’s Blood Eagle (review here), with Fielding‘s vocals first being used as backing and then more as a complement to Davis‘ own, he going higher in register while Fielding kept to a lower growl, all of this amid standard-setting heaviness the likes of which only a handful of bands on the planet would even think about trying to match.

That element has been consistent throughout Conan‘s career, but there’s also been development in their sound, and that seems set to continue on the forthcoming Existential Void Guardian as well. Revengeance brought some notions of melody to the vocals and I’m not saying I’ve heard it yet or anything, but one expects that growth will take another step forward on Existential Void Guardian as well. The album also marks the first appearance of drummer Johnny King, also of Dread Sovereign, which I bring up because, you know, destruction.

From the PR wire:

conan existential void guardian

CONAN – Announce New Album Details

Existential Void Guardian Out On September 14th

Two years after the remarkable Revengeance, CONAN once more leave us astounded with a previously unknown side to dual vocal sludge. The British trio presents a tar monster named Existential Void Guardian that seems even more menacing as soon as it gets high on its own downtuned groove frenzy.

The album will be released on September 14 via Napalm Records.

Pre order Existential Void Guardian HERE!
http://smarturl.it/Conan-EVG-NPR

Tracklist:
1. Prosper On The Path
2. Eye To Eye To Eye
3. Paincantation
4. Amidst The Infinite
5. Volt Thrower
6. Vexxagon
7. Eternal Silent Legend
8. BONUS: Total Conquest (live 2018 @ Rebellion Manchester)
9. BONUS: Satsumo (live 2018 @ Rebellion Manchester)
10. BONUS: Foehammer (live 2018 @ Rebellion Manchester)
11. BONUS: Hawk As Weapon (live 2018 @ Rebellion Manchester)

Existential Void Guardian will be available as:
1 CD Digipack
2 LP Gatefold black
2 LP Gatefold gold (Napalm Records Mailorder exclusive)
2 LP Gatefold dark green (Napalm Records Mailorder exclusive)
Digital Album

Tour Dates:
17.08.18 IR – Cork / Cyprus Avenue
30.09.18 UK – Sheffield / O2 Academy
02.10.18 NL – Eindhoven / Effenaar
03.10.18 DE – Bochum / Rockpalast
04.10.18 DE – Hamburg / Logo
05.10.18 DE – Berlin / Musik & Frieden
06.10.18 PL – Wroclaw / Firlej
07.10.18 PL – Warsaw / Poglos
09.10.18 LT – Vinius / Rock River Club
10.10.18 LV – Jelgava / Melno Cepuriso Balerija
11.10.18 EE – Tallinn / Sveta
13.10.18 FI – Helsinki / Blow Up 4 Festival
15.10.18 SE – Stockholm / Kraken
16.10.18 TBA
17.10.18 SE – Malmo / Plan B
19.10.18 DK – Copenhagen / Stengade
20.10.18 NL – Leeuwarden / Into The Void Festival
23.11.18 UK – Nottingham / The Loft
24.11.18 UK – Leeds / Temple Of Boom
26.11.18 UK – Glasgow / Audio
27.11.18 UK – Manchester / Rebellion
28.11.18 UK – Coventry / The Arches
Lineup:
Jon Davis – vocals, guitar (2006-present)
Chris Fielding – bass (2013-present)
Johnny King – drums (2017-present)

http://www.hailconan.com/
https://www.facebook.com/hailconan/
https://www.instagram.com/hailconan/
https://conan-conan.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/hailconan
http://label.napalmrecords.com/

Conan, “Prosper on the Path” live in Glasgow, May 9, 2018

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