Later in April, nine pegs will be forced into the UK and will sink the island into the lowest depths of the ocean… that is if the combined presence of Bongripper, Conan and Humanfly weighs as heavy as they sound. Conveniently, Bongripper and Conan have released a split on the human race before this meeting of titans, and what a gift it is…
The first track is by Liverpool’s doom titans Conan; who have done nothing but garnered praise during their rising popularity so far. Considering the average song lengths of each band, it’s surprising to see that it’s Conan who push the length, but even when the 17-minute journey ends, you find yourself automatically restarting the track.
Opening with hammering, repetitive drums that start low but slowly approaching volume, you know that “Beheaded” might just live up to its name – it’s punishing, unforgiving and downright fucking heavy. The fuzzed out guitars come in – with added feedback/drone worship – at an almost funeral march pace. When the guitars are left to ring between each riff movement, the tension of the reverb and fuzz is almost unbearable (in a good way). The joint vocals are savage and booming; sounding exactly what you’d expect doom-worshipping cavemen to bellow as they called on higher spirits through chanting rituals.
While the first few minutes follows this process, building up the tension and density of the overall sound, it’s when the cymbals come into constant smashes that “Beheaded” really kicks in. I never would have thought about describing a cymbal as ‘cruel’, but here it feels like the closest description to it, almost judgemental and mocking in sound. For the remainder of the track, Conan only make slight changes and variations to the formula; but this is fine, it’s obvious it wouldn’t work if they changed it up constantly. The repetitiveness of it drives into your skull and is satisfying for it.
By the end though, you’re still left wondering just how Conan captivated you for a full 17-minutes with very little variation, but it happened. As said earlier, it’s ridiculously easy to start all over and put yourself through the gruelling doom again… “Beheaded” is as addictive as it is bone-ripping, breaking the sinews of your senses and realities with roars, feedback and tribal drums. GREAT STUFF!
Then Chicago’s Bongripper make their stand with “Zero Talent”. If you’re into your doom, you know Bongripper, and as standard, the track is a trippy instrumental progression. It opens with psychedelic synthy keys holding down one note, while accompanied by a slow guitar vibrato that sounds like some sort of horn that drones through a deserted, misty shore – the combination feeling pretty odd but somehow fitting. Dull thumps and rumbles beat slowly in the background, and some noise forces its way into the track too, but not too abrasively. These combinations of sounds instantly bring you back to the 21st Century after Conan’s track, and soon you’re reminded why Bongripper have the reputation they have.
Also sporting a densely fuzzed-out guitar tone, the riff is just slow and majestic (in the Vlad The Impaler way). Although the drums aren’t as hammering as “Beheaded”, they still hit hard and exaggerate the torturous pace of it all. A lead guitar eventually takes place with simple, slow licks that glisten through the mix; casting a strong feeling of loneliness or recluse. Soon after, at the halfway mark, the bass takes short a lone lead with support from the drums; building and building when the guitars come back in.
This eventually leads to a real nice jam as the chord changes go along with the bass drum and as the cymbals go at a faster pace – a sound that never gets old in the doom world. Eventually the bass drum picks up pace at a regular beat as the guitars begin to sound urgent with their overlaying textures and rising symphony. The drums then jump into a hardcore ‘d-beat’ style while the guitars and bass whir into a frenzy; eventually Bongripper begin to go into a teasing stop-start phase with the movement, before relaxing into the outro, which just sounds like the suitable comedown through the highs you’ve experienced.
If you haven’t got the message already after all this: this split is fucking brilliant. The meeting of UK and US doom spearheads is both a gift and pleasure to hear. While Bongripper pretty much maintain their status of being masters of the groove and dirty riffs; Conan prove that they have the potential to barge their way as the first band to come to mind at the mention of ‘UK doom metal’.
Both bands delivered here and only breeds further excitement for this upcoming joint UK tour with Humanfly. It’s going to be brutal.
1. Beheaded (Conan)
2. Zero Talent (Bongripper)
Phil McCombe – Vocals/Bass
Jon Davies – Vocals/Guitar
Paul O’Neill – Drums
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Nick Dellacroce – Guitar
Ron Petzke – Bass
Daniel O’Connor – Drums
Dennis Pleckham – Guitar
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