Review by Emily Castles
It’s a rare Saturday night sojourn to the Boston Music Room, where a capacity crowd is building for an evening of musical extremities. There is a distinct air of possibility – no work tomorrow, everyone ready for some thunderous metal explosions.
Opening the evening in Tufnell Park are Londoners’ Wren, who released their first full-length album last year. They recoil in horror as a piercing red light from the back of the room lights up their grave faces, frantically shaking their heads at this interference with their thematic darkness. And so, they are plunged back into the aural abyss where they remain silhouettes throughout. Wordless and almost non-human. They are a promising outfit, with their winding, heavy and drawn-out instrumental cuts.
Conjurer storm the stage with a ferocity and confidence that is unparalleled this evening – with an energy that proves transporting. There is no doubt, they take you all the way to hell. Jump in the Tardis; we’re going to Lucifer’s lair! Fresh from Bloodstock, where they performed in front of a crammed and captivated Sophie Lancaster tent, tonight marks Conjurer’s final date on their mini UK tour in support of Conan.
Tonight though there are plenty who regard the young Midland quartet as the bill-toppers. Their demonic sound is entrancing, combining clever catchy riffs, heavily distorted doom ring-outs, delicate chord picking, and with some serious breakdowns for good measure. Dan Nightingale and Brady Deeprose unleash an unforgiving dual-vocal assault, matching the fast, heavy progressive sound of skilful guitar work. These are guys that really love their instruments – and have fun with them. On songs such as ‘Choke’ and ‘Retch’ Conjurer are seemingly intent on destroying everything in their path as they exhibit their unwavering concoction of intense doom-ified sludge supremacy.
Rounding off a memorable night at the North London club are medieval battle doom warriors Conan. They too are plunged into darkness, with bass brutalist Chris Fielding casting a particularly haunting figure with his features, lost under a hood. A character out of Assassin’s Creed would not be too far a stretch.
Conan are all about the tuned-down sound of distortion – bleeding trance-inducing riffs which allow you to drift into a Thrones-style underworld. Continually portrayed in their artwork as medieval hooded figures (monks, warriors or omens of the apocalypse) with guitars, Conan may appear a light-hearted ‘fun’ sort of band. Their ‘Volt Thrower’ video is introduced by the ‘barbaric Phil Thomas Katt’ who describes the Liverpudlians as a group that ‘tunes to Drop F’ and moves him to a place he likes ‘to call drop PH.’ It’s all fun and games, tongue-in-cheek jokes…. Until the music starts and blows your face off.
Opening tonight with ‘Prosper on the Path,’ from their outstanding new album Existential Void Guardian, Conan are a band that find a riff that works and go with it for at least five minutes, while ‘Volt Thrower’ in particular, serves up a mesmerising line of riffs, with Jon Davis’s 1970s hard rock vocals ringing over the top. This song is the nearest the band come to being ‘catchy’, with a headbanging inducing outro. Fans’ favourite ‘Foehammer’ and ‘Throne of Fire’ are other set highlights. Somehow Conan are able to produce doom metal with an element of the ‘groovy’. There is no one that sounds quite like Conan; they are the true virtuosic magicians of medieval warrior doom.