The news of a new album by Conan was received with great excitement by all the fans of sludge and doom metal. In the relatively short time-span of six years and three albums, in fact, the British formation has reached the status of living legend and cult band, and the expectations for their fourth album skyrocketed as soon as the first tracks of Existential Void Guardian started circulating a few months ago on the various channels.
Among the secrets behind the success of Conan there is certainly the fact that they have developed and consolidated a particular style of music that combines a level of heaviness and power that are typical of many extreme metal bands, with a musical sensibility and, to some extent, an accessibility that are instead extremely rare in today metal scene.
These unique features of Conan’s sound are once again confirmed in their last release and, without any doubt, we can say that all the expectations about Existential Void Guardian have been absolutely satisfied. However, this doesn’t mean that the album without surprises.
First, the average speed of the album has increased. In each of the three previous albums the British trio has always included a few moments where the slow and obsessive rhythms evolved towards more rapid bursts of sounds. In the new album this phenomenon is definitely more present, even if typically relegated to specific songs, with an average beat rate that is globally higher than in the past. The presence of a new drummer (Johnny King) could have played a role in this, who knows. The new entry in the trio, in any case, has been absorbed with disarming naturalness.
Another feature that emerges in Conan’s new work is that year after year, their songs are evolving from long sequences of monolithic riffs to pieces where the same dose of energy and heaviness is administered more quickly and more immediately. Faster paces, in average, lead to shorter songs, no surprises about that. Anyway, I somehow miss those epic and apparently endless songs that were present in their first works. That’s a collateral effect of Conan’s evolution that we must accept.
Among the elements that are confirmed we must certainly include the fantastic voice of Jon Davis. His distinctive style of singing is one of the elements that make the music of Conan so appreciable and, as I mentioned at the beginning, approachable also by those who are not already fans of doom and sludge.
Existential Void Guardian is another excellent and impressive journey into the deep and monstruos world of Conan’s music. You have here everything you expected from this album: blasts of guitars, slowly and hypnotic riffs, heavyness, all combined with a signature style that, if we can’t define as “melodic”, is certainly less impenetrable than other works of the same category.
Conan’s new album is available on Bandcamp and can be streamed also from Spotify. The album features 7 studio tracks (basically 6 if we exclude the grindcore song Paincarnation, of 55 seconds) and 4 live recordings.
My favorite tracks are Volt Thrower, Amidst the Infinite, the opening song Prosper on the Path and also the powerful Eye to Eye to Eye.