CONAN: “Caveman Battle Doom”

CONAN: “Caveman Battle Doom”

Cover to CONAN’s split release “Conan Vs. Slomatics” (2011)

What is the sound of Sword and Sorcery?

It probably sounds a lot like CONAN. This U.K.-based power trio gives a whole new meaning to the word heavy. But these guys aren’t hampered by “Cookie Monster” vocals or the demonic noise-worship that often plagues today’s heaviest acts.

CONAN have coined their own genre, calling themselves “caveman battle doom.” For hardcore fans, this is simply a new sub-category of the “Doom Rock” scene. For the rest of us, it’s an amusingly accurate description of CONAN’s unique sound.

As the band’s own bio puts it: “CONAN are as heavy as interplanetary thunder amplified through the roaring black hole anus of Azathoth.” christened them “Europe’s heaviest battle-sloths…It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

After releasing an indie debut EP in 2010 entitled “Horseback Battle Hammer,” the trio signed to Burning World Records and released their critically acclaimed magnum opus, “Monnos.”

Both albums are perfect for headbanging, slow-grooving, couch-tripping, or simply cranking up loud enough to vibrate the walls of your apartment. And your skull. They are super sludgy brilliance in the vein of early BLACK SABBATH, KYUSS, MELVINS, and TOOL. Call it “stoner rock” if you will, but absolutely no drugs are necessary.

Fantasy and sword-and-sorcery themes are essential to CONAN’s lyrical cosmology, which makes perfect sense for a band named after Robert E. Howard’s famous barbarian. 

CONAN's "Monnos" (2012)
CONAN’s “Monnos” (2012)

Songs like “Golden Axe,” “Battle in the Swamp,” “Grim Tormentor,” “Krull,” “Dying Giant,” and “Invincible Throne” not only sound like chapters from epic fantasy novels, they FEEL epic when you blast them through your rumbling speakers. Every song lumbers like a reptilian colossus moving through a tar-pit. They rise like titans from a burning primeval sea. They tread the jeweled kingdoms of the Earth under monolithic iron heels.

Paradoxically, CONAN are so heavy, they’re almost mellow. This band doesn’t bother playing fast; they only have two speeds: Slow and Mid-Tempo. Their trademark sound is the deep roar of the celestial abyss, the wailing of lost souls rising from the battlefield into the golden halls of Valhalla, the battle cry of a Cimmerian plunging his blade deep into the skull of a nameless horror.

Guitarist/Vocalist Jon Davis wails from a storm-wracked mountaintop and his voice echoes through valleys of volcanic rock and flame. Walls of distortion rise dark and glimmering into the sky, while drummer Paul O’Neil chips away at the Earth’s foundations with his steady, driving beats. Bassist/Backing Vocalist Phil Coumbe syncs a molten layer of sonic sludge to Davis’s booming power chords, driving the band’s sound deep into the heart of creation and out the other side.

CONAN isn’t just heavy for the sake of being heavy. They are genuinely trippy, as psychedelic as they are metallic. Their newest track, “Beheaded,” is a 17-minute aural odyssey that appears only on a double split release with Chicago’s BONGRIPPER. They also have tracks on “CONAN vs. Slomatics” an earlier split release with Irish doom-rockers SLOMATICS, including the songs “Retaliator”, “Obsidian Sword,” and “Older Than Earth.”

Cover to CONAN’s live album “Mount Wrath: Live at Roadburn” (2012)

All the artwork for CONAN’s past and present releases is by the super-talented Anthony Roberts. Sometimes an artist’s style fits perfectly with a band’s sound and this is definitely one of those instances. Roberts’s illustrations are joyously old-school, like images from mid-century pulp fantasy novels or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons manuals with a dose of 1970s Heavy Metal.

There are only a handful of rock bands I can listen to while I’m writing: Black Sabbath, KYUSS, The Sword, Elder, Danzig, Black Sleep of Kali. A few others. Now I’ve gleefully added CONAN to that list.

a2859868097_10“Monnos” and “Horseback Battle Hammer” are inspiring masterworks of sonic-powered high-concept doom rock. Here is inspiration loud as thunder and deep as oceans.

Can’t wait to see these guys play live…


UPDATE: CONAN recently signed with Napalm Records’ Spinning Goblin sub-label, joining legendary acts such as MONSTER MAGNET and THE SWORD. 

I wanna party with these guys...
I wanna party with these guys…
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John Hocking

I knew when Vireon and his fox-woman lover Alua, on “a high ledge above a great precipice”, were attacked by a huge white tiger, “larger than a stallion”, whose roar causes an avalanche across the canyon, that one of the secret ingredients in John Fultz’s Seven Princes was metal.

So this post is no real surprise.

I generally want my portion of Doom Metal to contain a little more melodic coherence than I found in Conan, but now I have to go listen to their stuff again.

John, I’m driven to ask you about any number of modern heavy rock acts that I enjoy and wonder if you’ve heard.
I could go on for some time about this but I’ll settle on a handful.
Have you heard Pallbearer, Leather Nun America, Moonless, or (especially) Windhand?


I’ve heard of these guys but hadn’t checked them out; the last Howard-related act I’d listened to, CROM, wasn’t something I cared for much. I will definitely be checking CONAN out.

As for John Hocking’s comments, I can vouch for Pallbearer and Leather Nun America. I dig both bands.

Jeff Hotchkiss

It was hard to track down a physical copy of Conan, but it was worth it when I did. Though I do prefer Windhand. I will definitely be checking out Pallbearer and LNA. Also, I’ll throw out The Sword. Particularly, their first two albums. With lyrics like this: forged by the crow-mage from shards of darkness/honed by the halfbreed to vorpal sharpness, you can’t help but feel the S&S pouring forth.

Jeff Hotchkiss

My bad. I see The Sword was mention. I completely missed the cut link when I clicked to comment.


What I’ve heard from Conan is pretty great- the guitar tone is just massive. And I’m obsessed with that snail-rider image, it’s the perfect visual representation of the doom genre.

In terms of metal bands that evoke the feel of S&S, High on Fire comes immediately to mind- sludgy but with a thrashy sense of propulsion that brings to mind images of battle and adventure. Their most recent album De Vermis Mysteriis actually contains lyrical allusions to REH’s Black Lotus.

Another doom band that has explicitly paid tribute to Conan the Barbarian is the mighty Electric Wizard- their masterpiece Dopethrone (featuring one of the all-time heaviest guitar tones) has a song called Barbarian with lines like, “His black mane sweeps across his face/ Grim and silent with a steely blue gaze/ Like a panther ready to strike/ His blade crashes down to end your life.”


This list could get long. Can’t talk “Conan Metal” without mentioning Indianapolis’s GATES OF SLUMBER either, though I believe they’ve recently called it quits.

John Hocking

I can’t stand it.
John, you need Windhand.

Here’s Winter Sun, my favorite cut off their first disc.
Heavy as a barrel of black holes yet melodic enough to haunt your memory for days…

Wait for the lead to come squalling in at 4:47.

Listen and burn, Doomster.


Some other bands of Howardian name (well, a bit of a stretch with the second set listed)

Thulsa Doom

Serpent Crown

(Roy Thomas introduced the Serpent Crown prior to the first officially sanctioned Conan comic books, though he had read or bought some Conan and Thongor books around then.)


I love this thread. I really like Elder and Black Pyramid too.

And since clips are being shared, here’s my kids drum/bass duo band, SWAMP RITUAL.

Fletcher Vredenburgh

Wow! Just got to check out some of the bands above new to me. Windhand sounds particularly great. There was a band a couple of years back I liked with a heavy stoner/psychedelic vibe called Mammatus. Very S&S lyrics.
My favorite track – – The Righteous Path Through the Forest of Old

Can’t sing the praises of The Sword, especially Warp Riders, enough. And, dang, do I hate the cookie monster stuff.


Mammatus is a great band, very atmospheric stoner jams with lyrics like, “Wield your broadsword through the night.”

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