Conan, Horseback Battle Hammer

Me, via The Soda Shop:

The name Conan wasn’t already taken?! I’ve put Red Angelfire Satan’s Snaggletooth into search engines and gotten three band’s websites on three different continents. But Conan, of all the metal names in the world, was free?

It’s a sign.

Presumably from Crom. (Not the band, Robert E. Howard’s God Crom.) Stay with me.

Horseback Battle Hammer is the debut album from British Seismic Doom (my term, you’re welcome) band Conan.

 

And it, my metal-prostrating-before friends, SLAYS.

On four tracks here, each averaging about eight minutes, Conan lurch and lumber forward like a poisonous mudslide. Like an angry lava flow. Though they occasionally speed up to “Motorhead/ Discharge” tempo, on the whole they are sloooow. Like Sunn O))) if they were a jam band. And I love that. If you’re reading this site, you probably will too.

Detuned to what I’m pretty sure is Drop F (for non-music geeks or -musicians, that’s nearly a complete octave below standard tuning; for reference, Electric Wizard, no slouches in the detuning department, are six  —six!—  half steps higher), are so grumbly and shaking that the guitars almost —almost— don’t sound like guitars: they sound like overpassing trains that time you lived under the tracks because your love of metal t shirts bankrupted you.

With properly tank-like speakers or headphones with a bass booster, these riffs vibrate, throb and distort for the entire 32-minute running time of Horseback Battle Hammer, which is another blessing (from Crom, word) of the album: Conan write long songs, but unlike most doom bands, don’t write too many of them. By the time their album’s over, it hasn’t overstayed its’ welcome. I actually usually play it a couple of times in a row– very unusual for me.

The vocals, too, highlight the sheer density of the riffs: unlike most doom/sludge bands lately, they’re actually sung to an extent, and that contrast really works– the higher-pitched singing, against the subsonic tones, compliment each other and keep things from collapsing under their own weight.

Individual track cheat sheet: “Krull” is languid and crushing, up until the very end when it gallops off into the sunset, “Satsumo” is as close as you’ll get to a single here (and is the best way to dip your toe, so to speak, into Conan’s sound), “Dying giant” is a patient, massive riff that is nearly ambient in its movement, and “Sea Lord” (about the Greek mythical beast the Kraken) is the closing epic. Any are worth your time, but if I had to recommend one it’d be Dying Giant (which was my least favorite at first). Give it time, and it’ll seep into your pores so slowly you won’t even recognize how much it’s changed you.

 

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