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Conan - "Monnos" (CD)

Conan - "Monnos" CD cover image

"Monnos" track listing:

1. Hawk As Weapon (5:41)
2. Battle In The Swamp (4:45)
3. Grim Tormentor (5:44)
4. Golden Axe (6:25)
5. Headless Hunter (7:51)
6. Invincible Throne (9:00)

Reviewed by on July 18, 2012

"These songs each come off as their own sonic battles, wars of attrition that leaves many bloodied and few left standing."

Sometimes, the smartest approach a band can take is to just be as non-discreet as possible with their music. No hidden messages; no grasping for some spiritual revelation; no fussing over every little detail. The band lets the listeners decide if they fall in love with the music based on the face value alone. Conan’s doom-inspired debut “Monnos” takes this approach with gusto, letting the fuzzy riffs and rudimentary lyrics drive the pace of each song.

That pace is a droning march laced with harsh, static guitars that regress into extended feedback sessions. The lack of tempo shifts, other than the bouncy head-banger “Battle In The Swamp,” would seem to be a hindrance, but Conan has been tweaking their sound for years before this release to avoid said issue. The progression may be restrictive, but the essence of noise is always steady. Only instrumental “Golden Axe” falls flat with its stretched-out tedium.

There are hints of sludge and drone in Conan’s music, but this is largely doom as it should be. Take “Invincible Throne” for instance; just hearing the opening riff feels like a throwback to the early ‘80s, where bands like Candlemass and Saint Vitus were playing around with the same ideas. This closer is the epitome of what Conan represents as purveyors of a doom formula not racked by needless interludes or overbearing songwriting.

This is a riff-heavy album, as anything technical/over-the-top is not even in the discussion. This mindset is transferred over to every aspect of the band, including the lyrical topics. Split into two-or-three word phrases, screamed and sung with persistence, the subject of minotaurs and unicorns being reborn is a highlight of “Battle In The Swamp.” They don’t pad the songs with words, as there’s at least a few minutes of the band jamming out per song. The double-bass attack that ends “Grim Tormentor” is a noted instrumental sections.

What you hear on the surface with “Monnos” is most likely what the band intended from the outset, with little unnecessary depth. The dual vocals have a chemistry and pull that couldn’t be recreated by one person alone. These songs each come off as their own sonic battles, wars of attrition that leaves many bloodied and few left standing. Whether it stands toe-to-toe with the smattering of great doom albums already released this year is the unknown factor that can only be determined with the foresight that comes with time.

Highs: Effective doom metal, some exciting dual vocal moments, plenty of jamming to go around on each song

Lows: "Golden Axe" is a flat instrumental, a few more upbeat moments like "Battle In The Swamp" would have helped

Bottom line: Doom/sludge fans should get a lot of mileage out of Conan's debut album "Monnos."

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)