A dark ominous fuzz ushers in ‘Crown of Talons’, opening track of the highly anticipated Blood Eagle (Napalm Records), the second full-length album from Liverpool’s (UK) much vaunted Conan. Drawling and sprawling it gradually stretches into a repetitive and hypnotic, simple riff and chanted vocal, like a dragon stirring from a thousand year slumber, an effect which takes two songs and 17 minutes to reach the state of awakening.
Doom is the new black and Blood Eagle is the measured heaviness of simple barbaric riffs played in the lowest of low tunings, and is like a torture approach; your cranium slowly caved in by casual, regular swings of a sock full of wet sand, rather than a quick, brutal bludgeoning. Eventually it knocks you down, then knocks you out, then smashes through the bone.
Just as you think ‘Crown…’ is going to step up and give you a battering 9 minutes in, it stops, and the dragon closes one eye and sighs before ‘Total Conquest’ begins the process again at a pedestrian pace. But all this means is that when it does explode at the intro of track four ‘Gravity Chasm’ into the ‘Children of the Grave’ style pay-off, it’s like tantric orgasm, and the waiting and pulling back from the brink is made worthwhile.
Conan walk a fine line between monotony and hypnotic-repetition, nothing strays far from the central point of sluggish groove and trancey sludge. The vocals are just a touch too monotone for my own tastes, but host a cleverly crafted album dynamic that builds to a central pairing of the Helmet-y ‘Foehammer’ and the more uptempo ‘Gravity Chasm’ before the dragon, fresh from the kill of the prey, returns to its lair to settle back into the lush low-tones and a skull crushing heaviness that can’t be argued with from closing duo ‘Horns For Teeth’ and ‘Altar of Grief’.
Conan may not be versatile, but they evoke atmosphere, dark groove and pure fuzzy, heavy, oh so heavy, doom.
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