By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – Liverpool, England, may be nicknamed “the Pool of Life,” but it was the primordial ooze of a million down-tuned guitars that gave birth to the grinding sludge metal band Conan. Emerging from the estuaries of Merseyside in 2006, the stone-shattering three-piece has grown to become one of the most revered and recognizable artists on the Napalm Death record label.
Most recently, the lumbering fuzz giant unleashed its fourth studio LP, Existential Void Guardian. A melodic yet bludgeoning answer to 2016’s Revengeance, Conan’s latest onslaught continues to benefit from the grounding presence of bassist/vocalist Chris Fielding. The producer of several of the band’s previous recordings, Fielding has been adding his gravitas to the sonic frenzy generated by guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis and drummer Johnny King. As Davis confirms, the complex riffs and vexing grooves of Existential Void Guardian foretell a new epoch in the history of Conan.
“I think the main thing was how heavy it came out and how the songs took shape in an almost effortless manner. We had quite a disjointed 12 months leading up to the recording of the album and there was a risk the album would suffer, but I’m very happy that we put out a cool recording in spite of it all.”
Rising above the din, Conan’s first recording featuring drummer Johnny King (Dread Sovereign, Malthusian) stands out from the crowd with Davis delivering his bloodstained lyrics with a poetic passion that runs hot and cold.
“I think my lyrics have usually been kind of concise and I think it works, because it doesn’t give too much away,” says Davis. “It helps the listener use their imagination, which is absolutely what we want them to do while listening to the music. I ‘defo’ use colloquialisms in normal conversations but try not to do it in the lyrics. I find that would be a bit limiting for the tracks and I’d hate to make myself cringe further down the line!”
One thing Existential Void Guardian has in common with the trio’s earlier works is a strong sense of altered reality, if not all-out fantasy. After hours of exhaustive research, Davis concludes that Conan’s back catalogue is best paired with the following video games:
“Horseback Battle Hammer (2010 Throne Records)–Rastan (Commodore 64 version), Monnos (2012 Burning World Records)–Quake (PC version), Blood Eagle (2014 Napalm Records)–Skyrim (PS4 version), Revengeance (2016 Napalm Records)–Renegade (Amiga version), Existential Void Guardian (2018 Napalm Records)–Karateka (C64 VERSION).”
It’s only a matter of time before the industry comes knocking, especially now that Robert E. Howard’s beloved Conan character has returned to Marvel Comics and the public eye.
“Hold on, I’m just about to put a down payment on our new tour bus,” Davis jests, predicting an upsurge of interest in the necromancer-smashing barbarian and the band’s namesake. But seriously, you just never know where the group’s doomy Cimmerian sounds are going to turn up.
“I remember being stood at Islington MIll in Salford in 2010. I had just watched Earth play and I walked back into the live room to watch them pack down. As I stood near the exit, Laurie Goldston starts talking to me—just said hi really—and we got chatting about Nirvana. Laurie played cello with Nirvana. As we did that, the DJ starts playing “Satsumo” off Horseback Battle Hammer. It was pretty weird, but I told her it was my band and it was cool timing. I hear Conan in some places, I guess a cool place to hear us would be over the PA at a huge venue but other people pay for that privilege.”
Prepared to set sail from the safe haven of SkyHammer Studio in the Cheshire countryside, Conan is primed for a run of tour dates that will bring the terror and triumph of Existential Void Guardian to thresholds from Vancouver, BC to Austin, TX. So, it’s time to get your fur loincloth out of storage.
Experience the might of Conan Feb. 25 at Temple (Edmonton) Feb. 26 at The Palomino Smokehouse and Social Club (Calgary) and Feb. 28 at The Astoria (Vancouver)Conan, Temple, The Astoria, The Palomino Smokehouse and Social Club