Turnout was great for a dreich Monday night in November, a testament to the appeal of two of the heaviest bands in the UK – Conan, whose droning riffs and pacy drumming could flatten buildings, and Conjurer, who have gone from strength to strength in 2018.
The only drawback of the night was the 18:30 start time for the four band bill, which meant that I had unfortunately missed Ayrshire’s Deadeyes by the time that I arrived. I did, however, manage to see the whole of Dolour’s Southern sludge half-hour. Coming through from Edinburgh, Dolour sound
a bit a lot like EyeHateGod, and play suitably slow and loose. The dual guitars of Mal Coppins and Garth Walker are down-tuned and fuzzy, and vocalist Gregor Meldrum’s shrieking drawl cuts above the deep rumble of Ian Munro’s low-slung bass and boom of Thomas Lawrie’s drums. Although not offering spades of innovation, Dolour are certainly enjoyable down ‘n’ dirty fun, throwing in an Iron Monkey cover and warming up the already busy Audio crowd.
Lacking an innovative edge is certainly not something that could be said of Conjurer. The quartet released one of the albums of the year in Mire, mixing multiple genre styles, and have gained a reputation as being one of the most exhilarating live bands in the UK metal scene. On tonight’s evidence, I’d have to bolster my already steady position on the hype-train: Conjurer were on lethal form. Few bands do such an excellent job of striking a balance between sounding clean, incisive and aggressive but with a thick layer of sludge. They’re also tight as anything (those teasing split-second pauses during “A Chasm Forged in Dread and Disarray” work incredibly well live), dynamically mixing precision and technicality with verve and power. It probably goes without saying that Conjurer were stupendously heavy as they energetically blasted through an impassioned set picked mostly from Mire with, I think, two songs from the I EP. I must admit, I did get caught up in it all and forgot to take note of all of the songs…
The dual guitars and vocals of Dan Nightingale and Brady Deeprose may draw most of the attention, however Conor Marshall is a flurry of hair, mic-less screaming and intricate basslines, and Jan Krause is easily one of the best drummers I’ve seen in some time; adding extra hits here and there rather than just doing a playthrough of the tracks. As a nice surprise, Conjurer were joined onstage by Nate Burman of Armed For Apocalypse for a particularly rousing rendition of “Retch” near the end of their phenomenal set. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a support act receive such a rapturous response from a crowd – Conjurer triumphantly left the stage to chants of “one more tune!” – and I really hope that it is not that long until I get the chance to see them again soon.
I’ve seen them quite a few times now, and I always know what I’ll get with Conan: the loudest, heaviest, droniest, fuzziest, riffiest doom around. And the trio do not disappoint, everything was set to maximum (except for the very low red lighting – which tested my photography ‘skills’). Beginning their thunderously heavy set with the double salvo of “Prosper on the Path” and “Eye to Eye to Eye” from 2018’s excellent Existential Void Guardian, the Liverpudlians barely paused for breath. From the moment of Johhny King’s first pound of his floor toms and Jon Davis’ opening barrage of riffs Conan were relentless in their approach. With the vocals, guitar and bass put through lashings of reverb and distortion, and with amps turned up full a busy Audio was subjected to a loud and full-on set of battle-doom.
There might not have been huge variations in tone, but the changes in impetus and rhythm of the songs make Conan absorbing, especially when the tempo picks up during “Foehammer” and “Volt Thrower” or when they get into a groove on “Horns For Teeth”. The immense wall of tone that is emitted from the PA straddles the knife edge between suffocating and hypnotic, and is punctuated by King’s intricate cymbal work and sharp snare hits along with Davis’ high-end vocals. The energy of the drumming and Chris Fielding’s aggressive bass and vocals contrasted with the drawn-out riffs of “Hawk as Weapon” and “Total Conquest” and as a final flourish, Conan finished their set with the rapid, grinding and unfettered 30 seconds of “Paincantation”. This was a great touch and felt like a tiny encore to a brilliant show.
This gig run saw Conjurer take an exciting step forward, I don’t think it’ll be long before they’re headlining this type of venue or larger, and saw Conan strengthen their position as kings of relentless doom.