REVIEW: CONAN – “Revengeance”
Conan is a stoner/doom metal band hailing from UK’s. Formed in 2006, Conan has just hit their 10 year milestone in their music career. Back in 2012, Conan released their attention grabbing debut album ‘Mennos’ on the Dutch label, Burning World Records. With the success of their debut album, Conan moved on to the Austrian powerhouse, Napalm Records, and released their acclaimed sophomore album, ‘Blood Eagle’. With their sophomore effort, Conan made a name for themselves as band in the forefront of the Stoner/Doom Metal scene. Manned by frontman and last original member Jon Davis, Conan returns with a new line up and their 3rd studio full length album, ‘Revengeance’.
Joining Jon is Chris Fielding on bass and Rich Lewis (ex-Flayed Disciple) on drums, two great additions for the band. ‘Revengeance’ is a six track, 50 minute long, affair that serves as a stepping stone towards a new musical direction. Instead of the sound the band achieved in their first two full lengths (and EP), Conan opted for a more straightforward and in your face approach. With their new sound, the UK band delivers an album that demonstrates the band modifying their sound and the potential the band has to continue to grow while keeping their lyricism and imagery intact as Caveman Battle Doom Metal.
The biggest shift that separates Conan’s sound on ‘Revengeance’ from their previous material is the production and mixing. The production on this album is much clearer and cleaner as the band abandons their more atmospheric “drone” approach they had before for a thicker and condensed slab of doom metal. With that being said, the mixing becomes much more balanced. The guitar rumbles a consistent bellow, and when it needs to, cuts out of the sound with its crisp riffs. The drums pummel its way through providing direction and energy to drive the guitars home. John’s vocals moves forward in the mix, instead of coming off in the distance.
‘Revengeance’ is the band’s most aggressive and varied release to date. Conan adopts noticeable Sludge Metal influences to create a heavy and hard hitting edge to their sound with the production, dense guitar tone, and at the times, punk influenced drumming. ‘Revengeance’ demonstrates variability in its relatively well paced delivery as the album generally knows when to slow down and speed up. Tracks like the opener, “Throne of Fire”, and the album title track, “Revengeance”, display this quality the best. The band is able to shift from relatively fast paced barrages to slow down parts to give way for Chris and John’s vocals. On tracks like “Thunder hoof” and “Every Man is An Army”, the band slows down to a lethargic crawl that sounds like something you would hear in Funeral Doom Metal. With the closing track, “Earthengaurd”, Conan delivers a classic stoner/doom monolith that is reminiscent of their earlier albums, particularly ‘Blood Eagle’, and bands like Sleep and Electric Wizard played in their new style.
However, this album has its flaws. Even though Conan experimented with some new ideas, the album felt safe, held back, and a little stale. ‘Revengeance’ suffers from an acute inconsistency syndrome that leaves me with the feeling that they could and should have done more. Although Rich’s performance is my favorite part of this album, I feel he was underused. A death/thrash metal drummer in a doom metal band is interesting to see and Rich performed well complementing the guitars and vocals, but I wanted to see more of his own flare and what he could bring to the table (most notably on “Revengeance” and “Throne of Fire” tracks). With Chris, I enjoyed the return of the dual vocal concept from ‘Monnos’, but I felt the vocals and bass lines could have been more prominent and varied.
By playing it safe, the inconsistency issue settles in. Conan would go on autopilot as the music becomes repetitive and predictable. Tracks like the last third of “Thunderhoof”, “Wrath Gauntlet” (or what I like to call it, “Thunderhoof Part II”), and parts of “Every Man is An Army” sounded like unconscious filler that the band implemented to focus more on the overall sound, in a pseudo-hypnotic way. Conan could use this space to take advantage of their cleaner sound and go for something more energetic like Church of Misery while emphasizing the force displayed on ‘Revengeance’. By adding more memorable riffs and focused songwriting along with what they already have, the band would be able to truly showcase their talents and capabilities. With great tracks like “Throne of Fire”, “Revengeance”, and “Earthenguard”, Conan definitely demonstrates its capabilities and potential even though the album lacks in staying power. With ‘Revengeance’ only being their third album, Conan can definitely improve as the band continues to work as a new unit.
With a new band lineup, Conan returns with a more ambitious effort towards a new shift in direction on their new album. ‘Revengeance’ is a sludgier affair that generates a powerful sound with its cleaner production and pacing, but falls short to make a huge impact the sound deserves. The album will satisfy Conan fans but will leave some listeners desiring more. Although the album is not perfect, Conan shows their potential on ‘Revengeance’, a sign of good things to come.