Conan / Bongripper – Split 12”/DD 2013

Conan / Bongripper - Split 12"If you are reading this then we are fortunate that the recent Bongripper / Conan UK tour hasn’t levelled our fair isles to rubble. As the cover of this co-release indicates (and indeed as both bands’ reputation will have preceded them) Conan and Bongripper are true worshippers of insane degrees of amplification, ever on a path of discovery for perfect tone and crushing noise. Coming off the back of celebrated Roadburn Festival performances and well-respected albums (Bongripper’s Satan Worshipping Doom and Conan’s Monnos) the bands being brought together on vinyl is every monolithic doom fan’s wet dream, and the fact that they decided to tour together to bring the music directly to your beating chest may well be the climax.

Anyone who is familiar with either band’s back catalogue ought to know what to expect, and certainly they will not be disappointed with this split. Both bands play the kind of incredibly loud, down-tuned and soul-destroying doom that makes your sphincter wobble and your heart pound twice as hard in your chest. On the one hand, both band’s appeal lies in primal, old fashioned riffs. But both bands are also masters of a sound that they have created, one that is dense, menacing and cinematic.

Starting with the hypnotic tribal drumming of Conan‘s Paul O’Neil and the growing drone of Matamp-approved feedback, the lowstrung grumble of the guitars gives way to the dual roar of Jon Davis and Phil Coumbe. “Beheaded” harks back to Horseback Battle Hammer-era Conan when the songs were given more time to plough through their surroundings, the notes more sparse and sparing than almost anything on Monnos but certainly no less punishing or menacing. As always, Conan manage to paint a mental image of destruction, war-torn battlefields and barbarians tearing through villages and revelling in the fire and brimstone of it all. For seventeen minutes, “Beheaded” rolls on – no break in the action, no looking back at the devastation left in its wake. This is doom that creates a heavy atmosphere and hits you at that gut level with no need for frills or tricks – the reward is in the weight of the sound.

Bongripper contribute a far more tumultuous offering in ‘Zero Talent’, a track that could have easily sat on Satan Worshipping Doom in terms of sound and the combination of styles that inform the band’s exploratory, progressive take on doom. Stoner riffs slide into depressive passages of monotone doom before blast beats pull you out of your stupor. While Bongripper don’t quite create the same level of all-consuming atmosphere, given the time constraints, ‘Zero Talent’ is nonetheless a mighty sampling of one of the heaviest bands currently making music and a near-perfect introduction to those who may not know the band’s sound. If Conan evoke a horde of barbarians wantonly pillaging, Bongripper are like the blackened visage of Death, grinning slyly from beneath his cloak at the squalor.

It’s not often that two bands who have mastered a unique sound of their own come together for a release like this which is what makes it such an absolute treat; one side of monotone, primal caveman doom and another of pitch-black stoner doom. While we wait for new albums from both bands, this is the perfect stop-gap, whetting our appetites for more aural destruction to come. As ever, the real heroes here are the amplifiers who have been given pride of place on the cover, acting as the “fifth member” throughout this mighty impressive release. Here’s an experiment: put this on your turntable and see if it can handle the weight.

Label: Holy Roar Records

Scribed by: Tom McKibbin