Review Summary: Adrenaline pumped caveman battle doom…
I had high hopes for Existential Void Guardian
since the moment its release was announced. Conan got better with each LP and Revengeance
was definitely the most cohesive and stirring one overall. The punishing riffs were huge and really heavy, no matter how slow or fast. Nevertheless, much like Monolord, the sludge/doom trio reached a crossroads too. I was wondering about the direction the British act would take, because being signed to a bigger label and touring constantly could lead to a bad decision like becoming more accessible. Their Swedish peers have done that on Rust
to often mixed results, so the last thing I wanted was these guys to soften their sound.
Thankfully, they didn't, plus Conan didn't rest on their laurels either. At only 35 minutes, Existential Void Guardian
ditches a large part of their crawling epics to focus more on faster paced sludge. Opener ‘Prosper on the Path’ kicks in like a sledgehammer with battering riffage and pounding drums. The raging vocals are a trademark already, just like the song's pile driving coda. ‘Eye to Eye to Eye’ continues the slaughter using a cool groove with several tempo drops and drum fills in between. The second half shares some hallucinatory doom progressions that would make Jus Oborn’s heart melt. Meanwhile, ‘Volt Thrower’ constantly switches from swinging to straightforward beats, whereas the guitar & bass are busy blowing the cabinets’ speakers out through fuzz drenched chords. The group also squeezed a minute-long, noise punk ditty, ‘Paincantation’ much to everyone’s surprise. They always had this energy in them, so cutting length and speeding the tempos for a prolonged while created this refreshing, adrenaline pumped monster. Even the sluggish cuts are shorter, none running longer than 7 minutes. ‘Amidst the Infinite’ and ‘Eternal Silent Legend’ will please those looking for slow burners. Both make good use of downtuned, ringing notes, the latter benefiting from Chris Fielding’s (bass) lower pitched screams. He should make more consistent appearances, because they nicely complement Jon Davis’ (guitar) higher voice. Moreover, ‘Vexxagon’ is probably the most brutal track here, boasting extremely distorted riffs, plus the halfway gear shift stomps like a boot in your face.
Surprisingly enough, Existential Void Guardian
is also the easiest to listen in Conan’s catalog. Its short time span and faster paced material will surely help those who haven’t gotten into the British trio’s music or pave the way to discover other gems such as Revengeance
or Horseback Battle Hammer
. Also, their latest record enriches the sonic palette through its strong tracks that should be in your playlists. The band is gradually becoming one of the essential sludge/doom acts, so don’t miss out on this.