Conan: Blood Eagle

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Conan: Blood Eagle
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Conan: Blood Eagle
Doom Metal, Stoner Metal
Napalm Records
February 28th, 2014
Release length: 45:14
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Conan is yet another Doom/Sludge Metal group to hail from Liverpool, England. The band formed in 2006, and issued a debut EP titled Battle in the Swamp roughly a year later. It wasn’t until a demo and their Hoseback Battle Hammer EP in 2010 that the group broke their silence, issuing a solid stream of new material including two splits, a live album, and their first full-length Monnos in 2012 through Burning World Records. After a few line-up changes over the years, including founding bassist and vocalist John McNulty, Conan present their anxiously awaited follow-up album Blood Eagle through Napalm Records. Will this be the album everyone was waiting for, or is it a far less enjoyable experience?

Blood Eagle consists of only six songs, but the album plays by the extensive track length rules common to the Doom Metal world. “Crown of Talons” is just over ten minutes in length. It spends most of that time building, though never to anything that lavish. The thick buzzing of the guitars isn’t too deep, but ends up rather loud. There’s a decent amount of emptiness between the simpler trudging notes performed, while the drums sound a bit distance compared to them, filling things out a bit. The starting riffs and early drum pattern is constant throughout, though the layered vocals that are handled more like shouted chants push the bass guitar forward a lot more in these few sections. This makes for a far from inspiring effort, and the crisp digital production seems to play a part, failing to capture the full power of the guitars themselves to make the restricted performance have any sort of bite or atmosphere to accommodate the ritualistic approach Conan tries to utilize. Even around the seven minute mark where the drums feel more primal in the rhythm used that leads to a conclusion of what would be considered more a breakdown in modern Deathcore standards, keeping the track that should have ended about six minutes in alive much longer.

Much of this can be said for “Alter of Grief” as well, though the start finds the stringed instruments sounding more like gargling than anything. It’s an odd noise that does eventually creep into trudging Doom Metal tempos that incorporate some decent catchy riffs. There is a loud scrape around two minutes and thirty-five seconds in, though that might just be a glitch in the digital promo. Once the vocals kick in though, things reduce back to simple held chords with the layered chanting style at work again, slamming the growing infection to a stop for a good minute and a half. Then there’s the slower chugging that makes up most of “Total Conquest.” This isn’t as bad as the others, having a little more technicality and random bursts of mid-tempo Sludge Metal to keep things interesting until the build towards more at the five minute mark that opens the door for some of the more engaging cuts of the release.

“Foehammer” uses some faster paced Sludge Metal to create a truly infectious performance thanks to it’s highly Black Sabbath-esque main verses and deeply tuned bridges on par with Scissorfight. The five minute length is perfectly suiting, never making the passages feel like they were filled to keep the song going. Even “Gravity Chasm” has a lot going for it. The riffs and bass aren’t quite as deep, but there’s more technicality than just one-chord chugs to offer plenty of room to move your head along to. By the five minute mark the pace slows down, but the distortions still remain deep enough to hold your interest during the shorter simple Doom Metal sections that feel more like an extended conclusion that could have been cut a minute shorter.

Overall, Blood Eagle is a minimalist album that has the potential to bludgeon your skull in, but ends up just an incredibly dull and lifeless experience. With over forty-five minutes to work with, you would expect more from a band that originates from one of the most recognizable locations within its field. It’s almost impossible to try to figure out what makes this release so bland. You could argue the lack of bite in the riffs, the volume or distortion levels, or even the mastering is the culprit. But then you have “Foehammer” and “Gravity Chasm,” both of which are catchy as hell, and the only two that will really stick with you. With so many other stronger albums out there, Blood Eagle is sure to just get lost in the mix despite their previous outings earning such high praise.

01. Crown of Talons – 10:06
02. Total Conquest – 6:39
03. Foehammer – 5:04
04. Gravity Chasm – 8:11
05. Horns for Teeth – 5:57
06. Altar of Grief – 9:17
Initial Pressing Score: 3/10

Conan
Conan

Digital review copy of this release provided by Napalm Records via Freeman Promotions.