Ground-breaking progressive metallers Periphery are back with a new video and song from their just announced new album, premiered by Sirius XM Liquid Metal host Jose Mangin. The fiery track ‘Blood ‘Eagle’ comes from Periphery IV: Hail Stan, due out on April 5th via their own 3DOT Recordings, their first release for the label. Watch the clip, Directed by Jeremy Danger and Travis Shinn, right now! Continue reading
“Fortunately Blood Eagle (Napalm Records) was a half-decent album and people really enjoyed it,” chuckles Jon Paul Davis, six stringer and larynx of British flag-bearers of crawling, cavernous, treacle-thick, cavern-sized, continent-heavy Doom Metal, Conan. “So people think we were under pressure to write the next big album, but, to be honest, the only pressure we put on ourselves was to make sure it felt like a ‘new’ Conan album.”
“I could go in the studio now and write songs that sound just like ‘Krull’ (from the band’s 2010 debut EP, Horseback Battle Hammer – Throne Records), and we could do that 10 times over, and it’d be dead easy, and people would be made up. But we ask ourselves is “Is this album different to what we’ve already put out?” And if we can say yes, we can be happy. We hate the idea of repeating ourselves and sticking to tried and tested formulas.”
And Revengeance (Napalm) manages to do just that. And more. With a greater focus and attention to detail in terms of dynamics and the ebb and flow of an album, the band have taken a more cerebral approach to the use of pace and planning. Emerging from a deliberate, slow, beginning, the album slowly unfurls with miasmic patience while building then launch into the fervid, emphatic title track halfway through. Such deliberate album dynamics works with savage effect. Wear them down, smack ‘em in the head, skulk through the fetid, brooding torrent of pained slabs, before bludgeoning again.
“We were going to put the track ‘Revengeance’ first…” muses the effusive Davis. “It was the first song we wrote when Rich joined – it was the first one that we three in the current line-up wrote together, which was one of the reasons we felt it was important to call the album after it. But it seemed like it was a bit too fast to put as the first track, we didn’t want to throw people, so we figured it’d be nice to put it halfway through the album to wake people up a little bit; we thought it’d have a better impact at track four.”
Another development in the Conan sound is Davis’ continued development of how he (ab)uses of his vocal chords. “The vocals are different. I’ve gotten a bit better at “singing”, I suppose. Not that I want to sound like a good singer – I’m still just shouting in tune. It’s great. I love the attention… I’m really good looking so I get all the girls now! I’ll start dressing a bit more smart…” jests the laidback riff-meister. “Ha, no, it’s cool. With myself and Chris… I never class myself as the frontman, though. We are the front “men”. Visually we’re both singing. I do most of the singing, but I like to think me and Chris are just as important in that respect. We’ve started to do a bit more of a vocal back and forth”
“(the vocals) are now not just something that’s happening while the riffs are going on! Compare it to Horseback Battle Hammer, which is just me straining my voice and doing one note – on this album there’s a bit more melody to it. If you look at the song ‘Revengeance’, there’s a part where I’m singing the line “All this is infinite, we rot inside of it” the actual melody for the vocals there is from the track ‘All By Myself’”. That’s where that came from.” (You’ll have to judge that for yourselves…)
“We toured a lot with Blood Eagle (Napalm) and listened to a lot of Weezer and Rainbow… bands with really good vocals. We haven’t tried to deliberately copy them, and we’re miles away from being able to do something like that, but we’ve definitely been able to add more melody into the vocals which has worked really well.”
To the outsider, it definitely seems like Blood Eagle was a career-changer in terms of raising the profile of the band…
“It was, but the profile of the band goes up a notch every time you release something and every time you play decent festivals, your profile improves. Obviously, if you release an album that’s total dogshit, then those increments aren’t too big… But we’ve been lucky enough to get some good reviews on the back of that, we played Hellfest and High on Fire asked us to tour with them, we played Roadburn for the second time, did our first US tour, our first Australian tour.
“It’s cool. That album helped improve our standing if you want to be competitive about it, but it did just as much for us as the previous ones did in comparison, but over time you rise towards the top of the pond you’re in. If you look at how much it progressed us, probably the same amount as Monos (Burning World) did… Monos took us from Level 1 to 2, Blood Eagle took us to level 3.”
And it stands to reason ReVengeance will continue the bands ascent from the heaving depths, particularly when wedded to the increasingly affirmative reports of Conan’s burgeoning live reputation?
“Something that’s really started to become apparent is that when you record more work and get a bigger pool to choose from live, we’ll play certain songs live now, and if we stay clear of the slower tracks then we tend to get a much better response live, people get more into it.”
“So, as a result of that, it has changed the type of set that we play. ‘Foehammer’, ‘Gravity Chasm’, and ‘Revengeance’ have a few points like that. We think it’ll be a lot more fun to watch us live on this tour as we’re not just playing crawling songs anymore”
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Jon Davis, guitarist and sole founder member of crushing Doom behemoth Conan, is one of the UK’s most hard-working, beloved and respected musicians; a man of both modesty and determination. Before their recent show in Manchester Ghost Cult quizzed him about their latest tours, their new set-up, and the forthcoming recording of their third album.
This is the penultimate date of an extensive UK tour – the first since your first ever trek to the US. How has this one compared to others?
There aren’t actually that many good places to play in the UK. We’ve had some amazing shows, but a couple of shit ones also – not naming names! There is a difference between playing in the UK & the US, and in Europe. The latter is very professional and business-like; the UK and the US slightly less formal. Over here we tend to drive home every night; we will tomorrow from Glasgow. It’s only four and a half hours so it’s not so bad.
There speaks a man who’s just driven across America! And then it’s straight to the studio?
We’re booked in around July / August time. We’ve a couple of standalone festival shows before then, plus shows in Sheffield, Nottingham and Oxford. Aside from that we’re just going to concentrate on writing the album, getting it finished and trying to get it to the label by September.
With such big international tours, it shows your profile has grown since second album Blood Eagle (Napalm). Does this increase the pressure on the new album?
I haven’t really noticed a difference. As we’re playing live more often we have to make more of the time we’ve got. What we’ll tend to do is get together in the studio and write a song every day or two, then record it in basic fashion. So we’ve got a demo of songs for the album by the time we hit the studio proper.
Things have really taken off since Blood Eagle, with much critical acclaim. Have the last couple of years seemed a bit of a whirlwind?
It seemed that way after Monnos (Burning World Records), our first album, and last year was our busiest year so far: we did over 80 shows, and must have been away from home for at least 100 days. So yes, but we’ve been in control of it. We really enjoy the touring, it’s tiring but rewarding and leaves us with a positive balance in our minds. We’re more in demand, and that’s what you want. I promised myself when I was fifteen or sixteen that I’d play guitar on stage. This venue [Manchester’s Star and Garter] is really important to me, because it’s the first place I played outside of Liverpool – we played here with Charger back in 2010. It was a big turning point for me, and ever since that gig we’ve embraced that energy.
Since Blood Eagle Conan has a new drummer and bassist. How has that affected the writing process?
The writing’s really good as all three of us are in the same room. Chris (Fielding, bass) and Rich (Lewis, drums) are both really good writers, but I don’t think they could write a Conan song yet without me being there. I don’t class myself as a good guitarist but I do have a certain style, which is to focus more on the drums and with the three of us in the room it works more easily. Chris has been our producer since day one, so he understands exactly where we’re coming from and if I write something, he can imagine just how it should sound and move it on. The core Conan sound won’t change; we’re just getting better.
So there’s more energy?
I’d say so. There’s more spontaneity; we’re able to use more of what we come up with so we don’t waste as much now. Rich is no stranger to bands, he’s a very accomplished musician, so having him in the band has been really beneficial. I’m really happy to have both guys in.
So what stage is the album at?
Four songs are demoed, and a release date penned in for January next year. So we’ll be quietish for the rest of this year, then next year we’ll get touring again properly. When we’re in the studio Chris is always the boss, and that’s the way it will stay this time. It must be a little different in his mind, now he’s actually playing bass also, but he doesn’t show it. Chris is actually a great guitar player, better than me by far, and he’s taken to the bass with ease.
And it’ll be out on Napalm, rather than your own label Black Bow?
Yeah. Napalm have a contract for our next two albums and, to be honest, I’m not sure it would be such a good thing to have Conan on my label as I need to separate the two. I also don’t think my operation’s big enough to sell the kind of amount that Blood Eagle did. I’d rather Black Bow was my business, and Conan my enjoyment.
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Here are the “Top 25″ albums I heard this year that didn’t quite make my Top 25. Maybe there’s something in this for you to check out?
As is always the way I’m discovering more great albums from this year now from everyone else’s lists, so, looking forward to checking out Code Orange, Indian, Krokodil, Hark all amongst others!
ANAAL NATHRAKH – Desideratum
Relentless anarchic vitriolic mix of black metal and intense industrial. Reviewed this one – you can read the review here: https://ghostcultmag.com/anaal-nathrakh-desideratum/
ANTROPOMORPHIA – Rites ov Perversion
Old school influenced Death Metal. Good vibe. Nowt new, but bloody well done. Reviewed this one n’all: https://ghostcultmag.com/antropomorphia-rites-ov-perversion/
ARCH ENEMY – War Eternal
Best one they’ve done since Burning Bridges. New vocalist is better than Gossow too. Ha, another I reviewed if you’re interested. https://ghostcultmag.com/arch-enemy-war-eternal/
ARTIFICIAL BRAIN – Labyrinth Constellation
Mental Death Metal.
AUTOPSY – Tourniquets, Hacksaws & Graves
More great Autopsy, innit
COFFINWORM – IV.I.VIII
Hateful, with big, skull crushing riffs. Heavy, weighty. Bit of sludge, bit of doom.
CONAN – Blood Eagle
Epic, heavy doom, innit. Reviewed n’all: https://ghostcultmag.com/conan-blood-eagle/
DARKEST ERA – Severance
Bit of trad, bit Celtic, good riffs, strong vocals. Promising. Good band, good album. Another I wrote about. https://ghostcultmag.com/darkest-era-severance/ (Not necessarily the song I’d have chosen for a vid, but decent enough)
DELAIN – The Human Contradiction
Poppy, bit more symphonic than I was expecting. Went down a storm at Wembley with Within Temptation too.
DEVIN – Dark Matters
Aka Ziltoid 2. The heavier, more symphonic, more metally of the two parts of the double album. I like it, just a bit too much monkeying around at the expense of the songs, for me.
DRAGONFORCE – Maximum Overload
Not quite as good as ‘The Power Within’ but still proving they write better songs since changing vocalists. Some belters on here, tbf.
ENGEL – Raven Kings
Like In Flames, but heavier guitars and catchier choruses. I like this one (well, I like them all on here, or they wouldn’t be on here, but this surprised me). Wrote about it, too. https://ghostcultmag.com/engel-raven-kings/
EPICA – The Quantum Enigma
Took a few listens, but once it clicked, there’s a lot going on but it’s bloody massive. Symphonic to the max. Another I wrote about. https://ghostcultmag.com/epica-the-quantum-enigma/
GRAND MAGUS – Triumph & Power
Ronseal Metal. Doesn’t quite compare to Hammer of the North or Iron Will to me, but big Valhalla filling songs. Very enjoyable, if no surprises. Another of mine. https://ghostcultmag.com/grand-magus-triumph-and-power/
I AM HERESY – Thy Will
Haven’t listened to it for a while, but appealed a lot at the start of the year, and a good combo of metal and hardcore that mixes it up a bit. https://ghostcultmag.com/i-am-heresy-thy-will/
JOB FOR A COWBOY – Sun Eater
Took me by surprise this one. Adding a large dose of Ulcerate to their sound, but all the better for it. Rather than rattle clattering through a load of sterile overly tight DM/core, they wrote some (very) heavy songs, too.
KING 810 – Memoirs Of A Murderer
The marmite album of 2014! Ha, I liked it. Big angsty anthems. Not perfect, but some quality tunes. Korn meets Slipknot fo’ sho’, but some different stuff going on too. Another one off the review list! https://ghostcultmag.com/king-810-memoirs-of-a-murderer/
LORDI – Scare Force One
I like Alice Cooper. I love King Diamond. This mixes the two with aplomb, delivering a monster munch bunch of good fun tracks. https://ghostcultmag.com/lordi-scare-force-one/
MORBUS CHRON – Sweven
Interesting album, this one. Don’t think I’ve quite given it all the time it deserves, but another I’ve liked this year that doesn’t just sit in a box. It starts from Death Metal but doesn’t stay there.
OBITUARY – Inked In Blood
Really good comeback album. Big grooves. Big riffs. Great tunes. Well done. Best Obi’s album since ‘Cause of Death’ , for me.
ORIGIN – Omnipresent
This is a relentless fucker, this one. Love the aggression, love the riffing, love the technicality, love how much it just wants to punch you in the ear drums.
SLEEP OF MONSTERS – Produces Reason
Babylon Whores are one of my “hidden treasures”, probably the most underrated band of all time, always loved Ike’s vocals, too. He doesn’t quite hit it with his new outfit, but some cool gothy, dark/death rock going on. Grabbed this one for review as soon as it appeared in the inbox. https://ghostcultmag.com/sleep-of-monsters-produces-reason/
SLUGDGE – Gastronomicon
Only heard this once so far, but really impressed me on first go, will be getting a fair few listens going forward. Interesting modern melodic death metal.
TOMBS – Savage Gold
Black metal meets post-metal. Really good shit.
WITHIN TEMPTATION – Hydra
Started the year with this one. Massive pop-metal. Preferred the last one and Silent Force, but it’s got some big old songs, mofos. https://ghostcultmag.com/within-temptation-hydra/
The underground music scene in the UK is now so diverse, so rich and so productive, that it is sometimes pretty hard to keep up with what’s going on half the time. It was therefore with a mixed sense of excited anticipation and a small amount of “I’m not all that familiar with their work” nervousness that your humble scribe arrived at the Camden Underworld, keen to see out the drab grey month of October with some ferocious band watching. However, thanks to a combination of bad food and bad planning on my part, I only arrived at the Camden Underworld at around 9pm but just in time to see 11 Paranoias hit the stage.
11 Paranoias have a brilliant collective intelligence and their approach to music making reflects this in spades. With interests that veer across supernaturally slow doom, stoner and psychedelia, 11 Paranoias treated a knowledgeable and discerning audience to an exercise in music-making that thrilled the head as much as the heart. What impressed about 11 Paranoias were three things: the crediting of their audience with intelligence, their air of mystery but, above all, the ability to shift gear and tenor at the drop of a – ahem – hi-hat. This was a set of rich, powerful tunes, held together by some exemplary playing and occasionally breathtakingly thrilling music. Rarely can the impending coming of Armageddon have sounded so ethereal or quite so odd.
Having not really known what to expect, aside from my Twitter feed telling me they’d been awesome at Roadburn Festival earlier this year, this was one of those gigs that could have gone either way. I should have had more faith; they were absolutely, unequivocally excellent and I’m a fool for having doubted them.
By the time Conan actually hit the stage at the absurdly late (says he showing his considerable age) time of 10.10pm you got the sense that this was going to be a show about validation. 2014 has been a good year for Conan and this show reinforced and reconfirmed exactly why. That brief moment in early March when every hipster in the land decided that this sludgy doom stuff was for them seems to have (thankfully) passed and this was an audience of the dedicated, the informed and the passionate. Pretty much every journalist will tell you how a band hit the ground running but, honestly, opening your set with a pounding and relentless Crown of Talons is just what the music doctor ordered. To follow it up with an equally brutal Total Conquest and Foehammer had everyone grinning from ear to ear whilst the band casually get down to the business of pounding you some more.
Particular mention should be given to new sticksman, Rich Lewis, who hits his drums as hard as anyone I’ve seen since that little old masked band from Iowa. It is an education and revelation to listen to him; he’s definitely added something to the band’s live power and the band’s cohesion is markedly improved.
As you might expect with latest album Blood Eagle (Napalm) still fresh in the mind, most of the set comes from those glorious grooves, but long-time fans will have welcomed the addition of an epic rendition of ‘Krull’ from Horseback Battle Hammer (Throne) and a seemingly neverending ‘Monnos’, which closed a set that was everything and more that you hoped it would be – irascible, irreverent, inimitable.
Great, in other words.
Crown of Talons
Hawk As Weapon
Horns For Teeth
Words and Photos by MAT DAVIES
For a man who has quite literally spent the last few months travelling around the globe, Conan’s Jon Davis looks pretty sprightly and relaxed. 2014 has been a year of critical acclaim, growth and progress for Conan. Ghost Cult caught up with Conan’s principal driving force in the middle of their UK tour to reflect on the year to date, the band’s development over the year, wax lyrical on the UK underground music scene and ruminate on the decisions, choices and sacrifices that artists need to make today to make something like a “living”. When we met, Jon was, despite having done interview after interview that day, in a chirpy and exuberant mood.
How has your year been?
“It’s been a crazy year. The album (Blood Eagle – Napalm) came out end of February, or beginning of March, dependent on where you live, and we did a UK tour of nine shows at that time. We then did our first European run of shows – three weeks in April, starting at Roadburn Festival and then we went all through the middle of Europe, venturing North through Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway and back down over those three weeks. We often do our own driving on tour and on this tour I did ALL the driving I was fucking cross eyed by the end of it!”
That must have been exhausting…
“It was, but it was brilliant. We then went and did two weeks in Switzerland and Austria in April and May and places like that. In June, we did Hellfest and a few smaller shows around that and then in July we played a festival in Pozniac where we went on just after Hawkwind who were headlining. That was a beautiful experience. We played to around 1500 people under the stars in a beautiful valley. It was a great crowd – it was a proper metal festival – and although Hawkwind were headlining and as legendary as they are, you probably wouldn’t describe them as metal by today’s standards. I think that maybe the people there were expecting a different sort of metal than they got with Hawkwind, so by the time we came on we had an incredible reception. It was a complete privilege.”
Whilst undoubtedly arduous, it appears that putting in the hard miles and doing the graft has paid dividends for Conan, both in terms of recognition but also in terms of breaking new territory?
“Definitely. At the end of July I had a message from High on Fire asking if we wanted to tour with them! They were on the road in Germany, France and Belgium. It was one of those tours that wasn’t planned but ended up working out brilliantly. One show that sticks in the mind was playing in a practice room at a lad’s birthday to, like, eight people! It was an amazing gig! This lad was like “Can you play at my birthday? I can sort you guys with a hotel and I can make a small contribution to the band and…” We were like: “Let’s do this!” So there’s us three, this lad and seven mates in one room. It was an amazing gig!”
You also spent some time this year in Australia. How was that for you?
“Oh man, it was amazing! We flew into Perth – that was a weird show. The people were cool as fuck but the place was quite strange. I can’t quite put my finger on it but, you know, a great place, although strange. We then flew on to Brisbane and that show was absolutely incredible. From there we went down to Sydney and we did two shows in one day and, to be honest, I was nearly fucked from the jet lag by that time. To be honest, part of it was my own fault. When we arrived in Perth, rather than get some sleep, we stayed up past 1am and then there was a fire alarm in the hotel so when we needed to get some sleep we couldn’t get it, so it was no wonder it all caught up with us come the time we got to Sydney.
“Australia is great though. To me, Australia seems like a cooler version of the UK. People seem similar and there is a similar sense of humour and outlook on life. There’s a similar culture and when we got there, we were just coming into their Spring so the weather was like the weather in the UK….”
How does their underground scene compare to the UK do you think?
“Oh, I think it’s really cool, man. The crowds might be a bit smaller but they are totally crazy (and) everyone appears to be really grateful that you have travelled over to see them. There are some great bands knocking around the scene as well, bands like Cement Pig, Yanomamo, Horsehunter – all of whom are really good. There’s a lot going on and in the strangest places too. In Sydney we were asked to play an illegal squat show which was a bit random; I think the guy who had arranged it was disappointed with the numbers that had turned up but it was during the day and those that came were crazy for it. The show in the evening was equally good so the experience has been a positive one. In Melbourne, we played a little warehouse as big as this dressing room (imagine a room 8ft x 8ft, readers) and it was fucking crazy – everyone getting their tits out and going mad for it.”
Despite the progress and the constant opportunity to work in support of the record, it is now fairly well documented that not everything in the Conan garden was as rosy as one might have expected. Jon is understandably cautious about overstating the band’s issues but equally it is clear that decisions around the band’s personnel were coming to a head.
Jon explains: “It was the tour with High on Fire that we decided that we needed to replace Paul (O’Neil, Drums). It was a decision that we knew we had to make. Equally it was a decision that we didn’t want to make so it was something that we discussed and then decided that we would take our time over it and not rush into things. We agreed that we would discuss the matter again after the tour of Australia to see whether we all felt the same way. After the tour it was clear that there were still issues and we decided to part ways.”
It’s clear that the detail of this will respectfully remain between the protagonists. Whilst this was obviously a difficult decision for the band, the arrival of Rich Lewis has given them another fillip. There’s a genuine sense of the last-gang-in-town camaraderie with these guys.
In listening to Jon, you could be forgiven for thinking that this life as a professional musician is all a bit of an easy ride, though the harsh realities of today’s music business suggest that it is anything but. Having now given up his day job from the family business where he earned his keep as an HR Manager, Davis now devotes all of his time to the Conan crusade, either in terms of recording, playing live or selling merchandise. “Everything I do with Conan goes back into my home and my family” he says and you’re left with a very real sense that his love for his art is matched by his love and dedication for his family.
A brief sojourn to Metal Hammer Paradise on the Baltic coast awaits the trio and then it’s back into the studio for more recording. “We are going to do some new material in November” says Jon, “it’s likely to be an EP ready for June next year. We have FudgeTunnel’s blessing for covering one of their tracks which is brilliant. Our next album is scheduled for 2016 – we want to be busy but we don’t want to kill ourselves!”
In talking with Jon it is clear that he is a man who is massively driven but equally self-aware enough to know that this lifestyle may not last. His passion for his art shines throughout our discussion; he has as good a knowledge of the underground scene as anyone I have met and still has that childlike glint in the eye when talking about his own music, music that excites him and the possibilities for the future. “Deciding to go full time with Conan was one of the best decisions I have made. I get so much more out of doing this than I used to do with my day job but I know I’m a very lucky man.”
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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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