Published Sep 12, 2018From their first release, Horseback Battle Hammer, to their latest effort of gargantuan heaviness, Existential Void Guardian, Conan have not changed but rather expanded their sound in various aspects — an important distinction, since hardcore fans from their early, minimalist drone days will still find much to love, even though this brand of caveman battle doom is much evolved in 2018.
The embrace of drummer Johnny King (Malthusian, Dread Sovereign etc.) is announced immediately and proudly from the opener, "Prosper On the Path," as King elevates the strings of guitar and bass with a percussion style that peppers in frequent fills and flourishes, but still retains the stomping trudge that is Conan. Guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis's voice remains strained and tortured, yet has come to reach greater heights of melody, utilized to complement the riffs.
"Paincantation" seems like a joke, but in the best sense, as Conan, for mere seconds, become a grind band, blasting and howling at an unheard speed. The irony is just too good, making it one of the best interludes in a long time.
In "Vexxagon" and "Volt Thrower," the band exhibit their progress into the mid-tempo realm, with the latter again showing off what King brings to the table with a dynamic spinal beat that shows strains of prog. But Conan still know how to make slow sound oh so good, and stick more to their roots in both "Amidst the Infinite" and "Eternal Silent Legend."
Existential Void Guardian is yet another waypoint for a band on a musical journey, progressively on the move toward greater heights while never forgetting where they came from. (Napalm)