Fri 28th February 2014
As unofficial figureheads of the new wave of British doom, a new release by Conan is undoubtedly eagerly anticipated. With 2014 already producing incredible (and I say that without hyperbole) albums from their peers (Slomatics) and proteges (Bast), Blood Eagle has a lot to live up to.
Conan seem to be in a happy place, which is an odd thing to say of a band mired in darkened imagery and blue whale-heavy doom. Through a productivity and forceful will to create music and the perfect conditions for it to blossom, they have built their own studio (Skyhammer), started their own label (Black Bow), and enlisted the production, mastering and artwork skills of the respected Chris Fielding, James Plotkin and Tony Roberts, respectively. Regular touring has enabled them to hone their art to the point we reach here, Blood Eagle the result of the fine tuning and experience, all for us to devour and emerse ourselves within.
Crown of Talons opens proceedings, setting the standard and embodiment of Blood Eagle's tone. Deathly slow, it creeps toward you like the monsters in Evil Dead; the vocals that demonic chant, a possessed evangelist preacher evoking the Necronomicon. It clambers onwards, until picking up pace as it gets heavier, before they just give up trying to add anything peripheral to the house flattening riff that underpins it all, content to hammer it out and home.
It portrays a quality that flows across the six tracks here, not a weak link among them. That incantation mantric aura of the vocals extends to the sound as a whole, creating an atmosphere to be buried beneath, losing yourself in it's sheer unrelenting and unapologetic belligerence. There's more to it though - I couldn't put my finger on it until several plays through revealed it to me - a sense, if not of fun, then of smile-inducing enjoyment at their craft. Plenty of bands attempt to do more with their doom than Conan, yet few if any know themselves as well as they do here, optimising a sound that is uniquely and definitively theirs.
The simplicity of Conan's formula is their grandest offering; the trio are certainly talented in the art of metal, but their ear for a perfect riff, downtuned and up turned, their persistence to keep it at the forefront of each track, is a skill that they master unlike anyone worldwide. Blood Eagle is a bold statement of intent and purpose.