The fourth album from Conan, the supreme ‘caveman battle doom’ trio, Existential Void Guardian sees the Liverpudlians on top form and releasing possibly their most accomplished album to date, which given their back catalogue is some achievement. As always, Conan are helped by bassist Chris Fielding’s excellent production skills at Skyhammer Studios, which has given Existential Void Guardian a clarity that’s at odds with the thick layers of fuzz and distortion the guitar and bass are coated with.
The album’s seven tracks have Conan maintaining their trademark sound but at the same developing and progressing, thanks in part to a greater prominence placed on the dual, contrasting vocals of Jon Davis’ high calls and Fielding’s harsh roars, as well as some astounding drumming from the recently recruited Johnny King (Dread Sovereign, Malthusian, ex-Altar Of Plagues).
Existential Void Guardian cleverly opens with two songs that together are palindromic in structure – “Prosper on the Path” starts with Conan’s signature slow, crushing guitars and thunderous drumming that by the midway point all accelerate in tempo and create an inertia that is sustained on the first half of “Eye to Eye to Eye”. King’s tumbling fills, succinct rolls and neat crash cymbal work then transition with Davis’ elongated riffing to resolve “Eye to Eye to Eye” in a slow, imposing and purposeful drudge.
Have you ever wondered what Conan would sound like if they started playing grind? Well, wonder no more. Acting as a neat way of segueing between “Eye to Eye to Eye” and the droning sludge of “Amidst the Infinite”’s first two minutes, “Paincantation” offers up a fierce fifty-five seconds of fast blast beats, hoarse shouting and furious riffing. Fielding’s guttural howls and chants do take on a slightly more melodious quality on “Amidst the Infinite” and album closer “Eternal Silent Legend”, two tracks that see Conan at their most canorous but at the same time defending their crown as the heaviest slow band in the scene.
Providing more variety in cadence and melody than Monnos, but remaining more focused than Revengeance, Existential Void Guardian is an impressive album from a powerhouse of UK doom.
Header photo by Matt Negus
Existential Void Guardian is out now