02 April 2012
by Tom Dare
Just as thrash comes in degrees of ridiculously fast, the doom/stoner metal bands come in various shades of galactically heavy. Conan are from the end of that spectrum where you literally (in the correct, non-Redknappian use of the word) fear for your speaker cones. You’ll probably have to turn their new album Monnos down a touch after your stereo begins to emit some worrying noises. As a basic premise for an album, this is a bloody good start.
Of course, furthering the thrash analogy, simply being lightspeed quick didn’t make Demiricous much more than a bog standard Slayer clone, so the sheer weight of Conan only takes them so far. It establishes that you really should check out Monnos just to appreciate the floorboard-shaking noise these Brits can make, but they need to play some decent riffs and construct some decent songs if you’re going to listen more than once.
On this front, they start in superb fashion. Opener ‘Hawk As Weapon‘ lurches into shambling life with a riff like the BFG stumbling to the bog at the end of a heavy night of blazing, and slowly picks itself up into a more purposeful but no less crushing stomper. There’s an intoxicating pall slipping slowly from what remains of your headphones that clears slightly as ‘Battle In The Swamp‘ slimes all over your ears only to promptly return every time the (downright unsettling) vocals wail through the fog. So far, Conan match their level of heaviness with the quality of music.
From here on in, Monnos becomes far more about that atmosphere than about individual moments. That is is absolutely not a criticism – the slow, meandering and comparatively gentle ‘Golden Axe‘ is as hypnotically powerful as any part of those first two tracks, for instance – merely an observation that as the track running times rise, you’re less banging your head and nodding in appreciation at the riffage, and more mesmerised. Put another way, the degree you’d describe the album using tired analogies to drug use only increases the further you get into it.
The net result of this – the heady, senses-misleading atmosphere generated by daft levels of heaviness – is is to make Monnos rather hard work at times. Conan are perhaps asking rather a lot of their listener, and there are a few moments where things could be smoothed out without sacrificing the mesmeric effect and benefit proceedings, and the drum sound could carry more of the effort Paul O’Neill is obviously whacking the skins with, but finding serious fault would be immensely picky.
Conan have hallucinated up a horrid little nightmare of an album. Monnos is grubby as hell and heavier than one of King Kong’s meat shits, and any criticisms should firmly be seen as encouragement – there’s loads to enjoy here already, and the areas for improvement suggest they can do even better down the line. Best invest in speaker insurance now.
Sounds Like: A much more aggressive Om or Melvins.
Standout Tracks: Hawk As Weapon, Battle In The Swamp, Golden Axe.