PICK OF THE WEEK: Conan’s doom takes on speedy bursts, cosmic ire on ‘Existential Void Guardian’

Conan (Photo by Matt Negus)

There you are, face to face with a behemoth with no mercy, with saliva dripping from his rotting mouth, blood marking his battle club that’s even larger than you are. You have a switch, and somehow, you’re supposed to make this some kind of fight. Guess what? You’re not going to win, this doesn’t have a miraculous finish, and it never could because the beast always prevails.

This is what it’s like taking on a new record from UK doom battalion Conan, who are back with more artillery on their fourth platter “Existential Void Guardian.” Over the past half-decade or so, this band has been one of the top delivery machines of clubbing, caveman-like doom metal. It comes slow, calculated, and bludgeoning, and no one who stands in their way survives. If you catch them live, it’s an even bigger task, as they blow out your goddamn hearing by barely even thinking about it. They plug in, and it’s doom for your eardrums. This new effort is a tight and tidy seven-track, 35-minute effort (expanded versions come with four killer live cuts) of blood-caked new Conan fodder, and anyone who has been along for this ride joyously since their 2012 debut full-length “Monnos,” you won’t be asking off anytime soon. Guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, bassist Chris Fielding, and new drummer Johnny King (Dread Sovereign, Malthusian) sound as sharp and channeled as ever, sometimes even speeding things up, and once you’re done with this thing, you should be emotionally and physically spent.

“Prosper on the Path” starts the record, and it’s a ripper, as their brand of doom mauls you with reckless abandon, Davis’ trademark wailed roar launches, and we’re head-first toward the killing machine. The track kicks up the pace later, as the vocals intensify, with gang shouts splattering all over the song’s end. It’s a motherfucker. “Eye to Eye to Eye” revels in static before the burly riffs kick in, and meaty roars get blood surging. “Bow before the altar!” Davis commands, while the guitars swirl and sicken. The tempo is faster in spots than your typical Conan jam, with the back end bringing hammering fury and spurts of mud. “Paincantation” is the most unexpected Conan songs ever, as it’s a 54-second explosion of grind and death terror, with pure chaos and vicious growls making up its body. “Amidst the Infinite” melts slowly, though it drives hard. Davis wails about “the dying king we all adore,” as warmer tones arrive,  the leads bleed over the top, and noise buries the cut forever.

“Volt Thrower” is aggressive, as one might expect from the title alone, and the pace is punchier and crunchier than usual. The riffs swelter as the band digs in and aggressively wrestles you to the ground, with Davis’ final declaration of, “All hail, volt thrower!” the last thing you hear before expiring. “Vexxagon” starts with Davis wondering, “Is this the end of days?” before the band settles into a track that soaks in their classic sound. It’s sludgy and ugly, with guitars chugging and drawing blood, and Davis’ wails mixing with Fielding’s death growls that actually take over at one point. A cosmic whir smears the battle, as the track hammers over the final minutes. Closer “Eternal Slant Legend” starts with drums kicking in, the bass buzzing, and the song locking into place. This one also delves into outer space but mostly stays there, giving the song a heavy fuzz treatment. The band shoves into weighty, crushing terrain, though there are spacious melodies, atmosphere, and eventually a dissolution into static.

Conan’s force in the doom metal world is unquestioned, and “Existential Void Guardian” is another mammoth release from a band that has yet to leave us lacking in violent chaos. This massive trio knows how to get their battle plans ready, mobilize their force, and come at you with blades whipping. There’s a reason Conan are revered the way they are, and albums like this are all the evidence you need as to why.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/hailconan/

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.napalmrecords.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://label.napalmrecords.com/

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