Conan – “Live At Freak Valley” (Napalm Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Hailing from Liverpool, the home of the Beatles (!), Conan’s winning brand of sludge metal has seen them rise since 2007 to release 4 full length albums and 2 live recordings. Clearly no strangers to treading the boards in delivering their sonic decimation, they return with their next live shocker, recorded at the Freak Valley Festival in Germany. Fronted by guitarist / vocalist Jon Davis (Ungraven) and backed by bassist Chris Fielding (Darkest Era) and Johnny King (Dread Sovereign) on drums, the colossal soundscape they produce together is nothing short of jaw dropping for a trio, and even more remarkably translates effortlessly from the studio to the stage! As such, that crushing, fuzz-soaked sound is brought to bear in all its brutality on the 9 tracks that could be a cull of the best from this remarkable band. Opening with ‘Gravity Chasm’, the feedback wails soon give rise to a massive sludge groove that rolls in all its stoner glory as Fielding’s bass booms and King unloads on the skins while Davis screams along, although careful not to take away from the power of the reverberating rhythm as it goes to work on your senses and ultimately into possessing your soul. Taking it back a decade, ‘Satsumo’ comes charging in through gargantuan power riffs and hammered drums as Davis shouts his larynx out amid the down tuned droning as the cement mixer chunders into another tidal wave groove that cascades and crashes before the wah pedal goes into meltdown. Slashing in savagely on ‘Foehammer’, the stoner warrior sound is immense as Fielding’s bass drives the huge power surging behind Davis’ distorted riffs and King’s pounding drums as the song speeds and slows to epic proportions before closing to a psych out of space rock effects in turning the legendary fields of the Freak Valley Festival into madness.