Review Summary: Horseback Battle Hammer, Conan's first, sounds like the immature bastard child of Sunn O))) and Black Sabbath. And there's nothing wrong with that.
“Conan are a Caveman Battle Doom trio from the grim North of England. They summon the heavy riff from the ungodly land and crush the skull of the unbeliever. Waves of sludge and graves of foes shall be the aftermath of their ritual”
Or at least that is what their record company - Aurora Borealis - wants me to believe. When I hear this kind of record company praise or see stickers on cd’s that say: ‘sounds like…’ warning bells chime with hellish fury ‘cause it’s almost never true.
Well… welcome to almost never.
One look at the cover and track listing and you know these guys sound big and evil. The Grim Reaper lurking at the wounded horseman on the cover and track titles like Dying Giant, Sea Lord and Krull seem to prepare you for 'grand and evil tales from yore'.
The album's opening track Horseback Battle Hammer: Krull starts with some feedback and after 20 seconds bursts into a doom feast with Sunn O))) like chords. Low and slow but with drums and a bit more tempo than your usual Sunn O))) song. After 3 minutes the first vocals appear. Ozzy like singing, Minimal, not perfect, but so right for the music. The same 2 or 3 chord progressions keep ringing through the first 8 and a half minutes of the song. And that's exactly how it should be. In the last 30 seconds of the song the tempo picks up and vocals get a bit more roughness in them for the climax of the song.
Satsumo, the album second track clocks in at 5:32 and starts a lot more uptempo then the first track, but after a minute the tempo slows down and the low ringing chords and Ozzy like vocals return. The fast and slow tempo come and go throughout the song until the end, where a bluesy riff comes in and finishes of the song.
The third song, Dying Giant, starts of with 3 minutes of low, loud, ringing chords that sound like the Dying Giant the title refers to. After that, the tempo picks up and the vocals kick in. The rougher 'American Heritage/Baroness-like' screaming returns. But only for a minute after which the song goes back to the loud, low, ringing chords. The tempo picks up again after about 6 minutes and after 7 and a half minutes the Giant finally lays down. This song couldn't have had a more fitting song title.
The last and longest song of the record, Sea Lord (10:51) opens with rolling drums like the storm the Sea Lord summoned is on it's way. You can hear the impending doom of the Sea Lord in the song. A slow tempo, repetitive almost mantra like chord progressions, you can just feel that the Sea Lord is upon us. After 8 minutes when the tempo changes with only 2 BPM, it was enough to make me look at the door because I was sure the Sea Lord was ready to tear it down and take me away to depths and horrors unknown to man kind.
Eventhough this album only has 4 songs and is over after 33 minutes, this is a more than decent first release from Conan. The Sunn O))) reference is based on the overall sound of the record, but I could have named a lot more doom bands as this is just a common Doom sound. Even thought they're certainly not at the level of Sunn O))), fans of Sunn O))), American Heritage, Black Sabbath, Om or A Storm of Light should give this record a spin.