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CONAN: “Caveman Battle Doom”

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 | Posted by John R. Fultz


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…


  1. 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?

    Comment by John Hocking - October 22, 2013 7:26 am

  2. 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.

    Comment by chrislatray - October 22, 2013 9:42 am

  3. 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.

    Comment by Jeff Hotchkiss - October 22, 2013 11:33 am

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

    Comment by Jeff Hotchkiss - October 22, 2013 11:35 am

  5. 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.”

    Comment by Golgonooza - October 22, 2013 12:13 pm

  6. 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.

    Comment by chrislatray - October 22, 2013 1:09 pm

  7. John: Very perceptive, sir! :) Yes, I wrote SEVEN PRINCES on a steady diet of KYUSS, THE SWORD, MONSTER MAGNET, and several other non-metal albums–mostly soundtracks. I actually posted a playlist for the novel here:

    I make specific playlists for each book I write, and there are certain albums I always come back to. (Like THE SWORD’s “Age of Winter”.)

    Of the bands you mentioned, I have heard of Windhand, but I’ll have to check out the others. I have to say, out of all the “Doom Rock” bands I’ve heard, CONAN seems to stand above them all. The only other band of this genre that has really grabbed me is Boston’s ELDER. (Another three-piece, ironically.)

    Comment by John R. Fultz - October 22, 2013 5:45 pm

  8. Jeff: YES! There’s nothing like THE SWORD’s first album “Age of Winters”–well, nothing except for CONAN, which seems like the logical extension of that sound…yet even heavier. I like all THE SWORD’s albums, but their first and second albums are the best for “writing music.”

    Comment by John R. Fultz - October 22, 2013 5:46 pm

  9. Golgonooze: Oh, yeah, the Snailrider image is FANTASTIC. The band calls it their “Sentinel” image–too bad all the T-shirts with this image sold out before I found out about the band.

    Good news: CONAN is in the studio RIGHT NOW and have just finished laying down drums and guitars for a BRAND-NEW album. I’m sure it will be packed full of cool new artwork–and cool T-shirts to follow.

    These guys are now at the top of my “must see live” list…preferably in a small club where they can really rattle the walls.

    Comment by John R. Fultz - October 22, 2013 5:48 pm

  10. Speaking of other bands in and around the “doom rock” genre, I’ve also recently discovered Black Pyramid’s new album “Adversarial,” and The Samsara Blues Experiment has several good, trippy albums, including the brand-new “Waiting for the Flood.”

    Comment by John R. Fultz - October 22, 2013 6:02 pm

  11. 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.

    Comment by John Hocking - October 22, 2013 6:45 pm

  12. 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.)

    Comment by PB210 - October 22, 2013 7:03 pm

  13. John: Cool–I’m taking a more detailed listen to Windhand right now. Thanks!

    Comment by John R. Fultz - October 22, 2013 7:51 pm

  14. Aw yeah…that’s gooood doomrock…

    Comment by John R. Fultz - October 22, 2013 7:54 pm

  15. 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.

    Comment by chrislatray - October 22, 2013 10:23 pm

  16. 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.

    Comment by Fletcher Vredenburgh - October 23, 2013 9:01 pm

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

    Comment by Golgonooza - October 23, 2013 11:00 pm

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