I said it before, but I will say it again: the year 2013 is still short, but oh boy, we have been absolutely spoiled with good music already! To add to this vastly growing collection of brilliance, Conan now released the complete live set they played at Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands last year through the fantastic Burning World Records.
There is nothing new on this live release as all songs have been released on the studio releases Monnos and Horseback Battle Hammer, but the great production of this live set and the chosen 6 songs they played makes this a fantastic “best-of” album. Monnos was my album of the year 2012 (see our full list here), and there is a good reason for this. Conan is in my opinion the current best in combining ear-destroying, skull crushing and bowel vacating heavy filthy riffs with slow earth shattering pounding drums. Conan builds upon previously established foundations of metal, doom and sludge, but completely adds their own stamp to this.
Mount Wrath starts with one of my favourite Conan tracks, ‘Krull’, also the opener on Horseback Battle Hammer. This song starts so slow, it is almost re-defining what slow means. And I get the feeling Conan was doing their extra best to play ‘Krull’ even slower during this live performance. It really goes on for quite a couple of minutes, building this huge wall of sound. Filthy riff creator John Paul Davis opens his mouth after a while shouting the amazing opening lyric “MYYY NAAAAME IS KRUUUULLLL…I LIIIIVE ON A MOOOUUUNNN….TAAAAIIINNNN!!!”. The great thing about ‘Krull’ is that after these long slow repeating riffs the song completely breaks open to a nice tempo change, while bass player Phil Coumbe takes over vocal duties, providing a deeper and gruntier voice.
One of Conan strong points in my opinion is drummer Paul “Rippled” O’Neill. It is not the most technical drumming he produces, but being a drummer myself I can only confirm how difficult it is to drum so slow for long stretches, suppressing the need to slightly speed up while the song is on-going. But most of all, he really brings a lot of depth to Conan’s heavy wall of guitar filth by adding lots of cymbal touches, like a little splash hit here and a china hit there. I always noticed this on the studio recordings, but the production on Mount Wrath is done perfectly, so that these cymbal details really come through very nicely. Next time you listen to Conan focus your ears open on the drums and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Continuing with Mount Wrath, after ‘Krull’ it continues with a couple of “faster” tracks, ‘Satsumo’, ‘Hawk As Weapon’ and ‘Battle In the Swamp’ before ‘Headless Hunter’ takes things right back down again. And ‘Headless Hunter’ again has so many great details going on with the drums that it is an absolute pleasure to listen to. Listen for example to the nice hi-hat rhythm after around 1:50 in. Both vocalists combine the singing on this song, giving this track an extra level of edginess. Similar to ‘Krull’, ‘Headless Hunter’ ends on an up-tempo bit, with the brief introduction of pounding double bass drums. Mount Wrath finishes with the epic long and slow track ‘Sea Lord’ again taken off their earlier Horseback Battle Hammer release.
After Burning World Records already released the Bongripper Roadburn live set (find it here), they now released what, according to some people, was one of Roadburn’s best ever live sets. It is a great release, and any fan of heavy deep filthy doom/sludge should get this as you won’t be disappointed.
Mount Wrath is available on Bandcamp through the “name your price” option, but fans of physical music will be pleased to hear that it will also be released on CD first and then on vinyl as well in a couple of weeks time.
Conan will hopefully release a new studio album soon, but in the meantime you can catch them live as they're about to embark on a extensive European and UK tour. Catch them live if you can!