“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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