I hope that when you hear the word “Conan” you don’t think first of the comedian. Arnold Schwarzenegger or the Robert E. Howard novels are acceptable answers. But this writer’s first thought goes to the English (mega)power trio Conan. Blood Eagle picks up where Monnos left off – which is somewhere ancient where everything is bigger than everything else. Bigger riffs, bigger tone, bigger atmosphere.
The self-proclaimed “caveman battle doom” metal band has become well known for their abominable sonic force. It’s hard to find a band this adept at driving the air from your lungs under the weight of their massive, massive tone. Apparently their set at Roadburn this year was so devastating it bordered on cruelty. But what good is muscle if you can’t do anything with it?
As easy as it would be to simply lay the drone on thick and let the amps do all the heavy lifting, Conan prefer to get their hands dirty. Immensely powerful riffs assault at every turn. From gallop and trot, through plodding, down to drone, their pulsing rhythms are equally fierce whether delivering a good throttling or just sitting on your chest.
Some may take issue with the relatively monochromatic vocals but those people deserve a mailed fist right in the chops. The epic bellows are delivered with barrel-chested force to reach across the horizon with their messages of doom. Conan’s doom and drone draw the listener in through sheer force of gravity. While they’re beating their riffs into your head, the tone makes you feel like that sound in your ears is akin to what you’d be subject to while being dragged down a gravel road behind a horse, or, in this case, behind a magical longship capable of traversing rolling seas, cragged mountains and valleys, and the heavens themselves.
Blood Eagle makes you feel stronger. The vengeful percussion dictates how the body should unleash that strength. Whether by broadsword, battle-axe or good ole fisticuffs, blood and glory is yours for the taking. The bloodlust flows deep and strong, but there is also a brooding emptiness or loneliness that no amount of battle or straining amps can wash away.
The trio may mention cavemen but this is far beyond the Neanderthal discovering simple tools by dumb luck. Conan are master craftsmen using finely honed skills to create precisely what they intend: ungodly heavy doom.
Blood Eagle may not be terribly complex but the tracks do take you on a journey, moving from one battleground to the next, leaving a scarred and desolate landscape in their wake. Each riff is intentionally stunning in the literal sense. Each movement is deliberate in driving the listener toward the gathering clouds darkening overhead.
No sun shines down to make the sweat glisten or dry your tears. Only unending and soul-crushing doom.
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