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Bongripper / Conan Split (2013) review

Bongripper / Conan "Split" (Holy Roar Records, 2013) 

Conan is a three-piece from Liverpool, UK, whose musical proposal can be taken as the very epitome of Stoner-Doom Metal. Active since 2006, they’ve released three albums so far (including a live one, recorded at Roadburn Festival), and 2 split EP’s: the first with sludge-doomsters Slomatics from Belfast, and the second, which we’re gonna take a closer look at in a bit, with none other than Chicago-based doom metal superstars Bongripper. Now, if you haven’t heard of Bongripper, they’re four kids from Illinois who’ve been quickly building up a monsterous reputation in the doom-scene worldwide after having released five amazing  albums of unrelenting, demonic doom metal over the course of the past 6 years, played major festivals all over the States and in Europe, and all this without the support of a label. That’s right. A status that very few bands can pride themselves of having achieved. But let’s get into the music found on this platter, which is a very good example of what both bands are up to nowadays, and capable of when put to work together.

Introduced by the slow martial rhythm of the drums, enter Conan’s “Beheaded”. Their trademark doom sound is immediately recognizable, with heavy distortions and a tank-like cadenza that invoke images of medieval wartime funereal processions. The drums are soon joined by the guitars. A few chords, just hanging there, unwavering. It’s almost like the power of the impact of the resonating notes is surpassed by that of the space between the notes, like a vessel out at sea, waiting for the next wave to crash. When the vocals kick in, it sounds like they’re coming from another dimension, chilling in their overtly monotonous litany. A black mass that protracts itself for a considerable 17 minutes. As they did on their epic full lenght “Monnos” (2012), they decided to keep it low and slow, going as always for the long dark road rather than the easy way. That’s the way of doom, and it’s a tortuous one.

Flip the record to Bongripper’s “Zero Talent”, and you’ll see what I meant before when I mentioned “demonic doom metal”. The union of the perfect doom-metal guitar sound, and the resolution of striking the right chord at the right moment, plus a strong leaning towards experimentation (blast beats in doom? You better believe it), and an almost sick sensibility for finding successions of notes that could make up Hell’s very own soundtrack are but only few of Bongripper’s qualities which add to their demonic appeal. Anyone who’s seen them live will tell you: stay away from the speakers and keep your eyes on the band if you don’t want to pass out. Or just take a look at the cover they designed for their latest full lenght album, aptly titled “Satan Worshipping Doom”, if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Bongripper’s sound summarize the very essence of doom, yet at the same time it’s a refreshing re-interpretation of a genre that no more than 10 years ago might have been considered extinguished. But their vision is deeper and darker, more serious and motivated by evidently truer feelings than any other band I’ve encountered before in the doom scene. In this relatively short track (9+ minutes), the boys give it all out, and stick a few more nails in the coffin of traditional doom, as they take it further and further away from its roots, while twisting it and turning ti on itself while adding to the sheer emotional power of a genre that can now, thanks to bands like these, be considered finally resurrected, and taken as seriously as ever, both commercially and artistically. Wait until someone decides to refresh their now impossible-to-find, almost completely self-released back catalogue (they’ve already done “The Great Barrier Reefer”, their debut, on double vinyl), and then there will be no limit to how deep Bongripper can sink us.

Report made by Tommy Morelli/2013
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