God knows I love doom, but I would hardly call myself a “doom connoisseur” like some people on this site (I don’t think she’s ever actually called herself that, but you get it). But even so, doom is such a vast genre that, while our tastes in doom overlap some, I don’t think they’re really all that close. Angela’s drawn to psychedelic, stoner and generally very ethereal doom, where I like the kind of doom that feels like being hit in the cerebellum with a wrecking ball, which is why I love Conan and their new album Evidence of Immortality.
Ever since their inception in 2007 and their debut EP in 2010, Jolly Ol’ England’s Conan has had a singular mission: crush their enemies, see said enemies driven before them and to hear the lamentations of said enemies’ women. Alright, maybe not that extreme, but extreme metal certainly is the name of the game. Conan do doom that pays homage to the classic formula of the genre: extremely low, extremely slow, extremely heavy. No bells, whistles or frills (as much as I appreciate the bells and whistles and frills a lot of times). Chances are good that you don’t really need me to tell you all this though; 2018’s Existential Void Guardian saw Conan gain an awful lot of traction, and that’s what put them on my radar at least. It’s also worth mentioning that the power trio also utilize the “less is more” configuration in their sound that I personally believe is the right way to do doom, especially if you’re going to keep it simple and keep it heavy. Sticking with the classic formula of guitar, bass and drums, the relatively sparse use of vocals and keeping the lineup tight allows the killer riffs to take center stage, and on Evidence of Immortality they certainly do, although the band are not without some tricks up their sleeves this time around. I also have to take a second to acknowledge the fantastic cover art, once again delivered by Tony Roberts, who is as much responsible for shaping the Conan brand as the three musicians are. It quite effectively sets the mood for what you’re about to put yourself through.
Evidence of Immortality is described by the band as their magnum opus, so the hype is definitely there, but does it deliver? Yeah, it does. In spades. This is an album that is punishingly heavy, and all it takes to realize this is the first couple of seconds of the opener “A Cleaved Head No Longer Plots.” Crunchy guitar tones, bowel-churningly low tunings, implacable drums and menacing riffs carry you for over ten minutes, unrelenting and unmerciful in all the ways I want my doom to be. Interspersed are the wails and growls of guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, but the vocals are used sparingly in the songs, and for good measure. I’m definitely not knocking the YOB-type yowls he puts out, in fact I quite enjoy them, but when the sound is so minimalist and you want the focus to be on the riffs, then you have to have a steady hand when tossing around things other than riffs, and Conan does this incredibly well. However, they do still manage to mix in a few unexpected elements into their sound. For me, instrumental closer “Grief Sequence” was a huge surprise with the incorporation of washes of synths behind huge, mournful guitars. It’s got a funeral doom vibe to it that is not unwelcome at all. It’s a different kind of heavy than, say, “Righteous Alliance,” which is just handbang central from start to finish, but it closes the album out in a way that feels satisfying. Elsewhere, the black metal vibes on the start of “Levitation Hoax” and the punky throwdown of “Ritual of Anonymity” threw me for a pleasant loop before settling back into the driving groove that carries the rest of the songs. Conan do what they do extremely well, but Evidence of Immortality shows that they are a band that are more than a one-trick-pony.
Yes, Evidence of Immortality is a record that is, at times, painfully slow and heavy (feature, certainly not a bug), so if you’re looking for any semblance of melody or levity, maybe look somewhere else. This is doom that bridges the gap between the old-school forefathers and a new generation of stupidly heavy modern bands perfectly. When Conan are leading the charge, you either get behind them, or end up on the giant pile of severed heads they leave behind.
Evidence of Immortality will be available August 19 on Napalm Records. For more information on Conan, visit their official website.