Conan - Blood Eagle (2014)
Review by Trevor Proctor
For several years Conan’s reputation and following within UK and worldwide underground communities has been expanding and growing at an alarming rate, testimony to their growth in popularity in the UK has been their two appearances at the UK’s premiere metal festival, Damnation - held yearly in Leeds and celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
In 2011 Conan had an early afternoon slot which proved to be one of my highlights during a day of pure quality metal but by 2013 Conan were not only headlining the same stage but were also in direct competition with the mighty Carcass who were headlining another stage at the same time, a sure fire indication of the surge in their popularity and confidence.
Hailing from Liverpool the three piece doom band is made up of Paul O’Neill on drums, Jon Davies guitar and vocals with new member Chris Fielding on bass and vocals – Chris has produced every recording for Conan to date and joined the band as a replacement for Phil Coumbe who left the band on the 15th November after finishing “Blood Eagle” at the end of October - a fact Conan deliberately kept quiet until recently…
This is Conan’s debut recording in Jon Davis’ Skyhammer studio and was produced as always by Chris Fielding; Blood Eagle is also Conan’s first release on a major label, Napalm Records so to say the band has a lot riding on this album is a definite understatement. Traditionally first records with big labels can be something of a tricky affair but thankfully this is not the case with Blood Eagle. Starter “Crown of Talons” is quick to assure the listener a major record deal doesn’t necessarily mean a sacrifice of sound or heaviness. We’re on familiar ground during Crown of Talons, the first ten minute trip through Conan’s desolate world; long, drawn out and down tuned notes, shouted vocals and spine crushingly heavy guitar and bass trademarks lace this seriously good album opener.
The album progresses in a similar fashion, churning; crushing tracks that destroy all in their wake - the familiar Foehammer being a shining example of this, with a faster tempo than the previous two tracks but devastatingly heavy nonetheless - yet nothing about this seriously good album even whiffs of repetition or a repress of anything they’ve previously released as Conan stray from their well-trodden path at times but still manage to remain faithful to their trademark sound. Track four Gravity Chasm is a perfect example of their willingness to dabble with and try new sounds and styles – in my humble opinion the best track of the album, this fucker grooves along and at times reminds me of early Cathedral in terms of swagger, tempo and grooviness, words you wouldn’t normally associate with Conan – yet thankfully it’s still unmistakably Conan.
There are a number of moments like this peppered throughout the album and I feel that’s what makes it such a landmark for the band. If you’re already a fan of Conan you’ll not be disappointed with this album and if you’re a new listener then Blood Eagle is an excellent introduction; whilst it’s their heaviest work to date it’s also their most accessible – I know that may sound like a contradiction of terms but it’s true.
What Conan has achieved with Blood Hammer is exceptional; they’ve broadened, honed and improved their sound without losing any of the heaviness that made us love them in the first place. This is essential listening; you only think you’ve heard heavy, until you’ve heard Conan.
1. Crown of Talons
2. Total Conquest
4. Gravity Chasm
5. Horns for Teeth
6. Altar of Grief
Blood Eage was released by Napalm Records on March 3rd 2014 (UK) and March 11th (USA & Canada).