Nothing says celebrating a dark November evening quite like listening to some crushing doom music, and there aren’t many better who do it on these British Isles than Liverpool three-piece Conan. Having travelled up and down the country ripping venues down to their foundations, the trio finished up their latest jaunt around the country at Bristol’s Exchange.
The venue was already starting to fill up by the time openers Sail took to the stage, and their brand of melodic sludge metal was definitely the tone setter for the rest of the evening. The quartet brought a lot of energy and fun to their set and the influences of bands like Baroness and Torche were clear for all to see. But the bands plan to play in Christmas jumpers – as they explained it’s the closest show they will play to the festive holiday – may have backfired in a boiling hot venue.
After the high-octane energy of Sail, the atmosphere immediately changed once Conan made their presence felt on the stage. Even before guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis let a riff ring out, the room was filled with the piercing noise of feedback before the crushing bass and loud-as-fuck riffs kicked in. With an extensive back catalogue to pick from, Conan knew exactly how to play their audience, starting with the slower more atmospheric tracks like ‘Krull’ and ‘Total Conquest’. You could tell the room full of slowly nodding heads were ready to kick into the next gear at the flip of a switch.
It was when the three-piece kicked into ‘Gravity Chasm’ that the crowd really started to work themselves into a frenzy, having up until this stage just allowed the waves of sound to wash over them. But it was from here, despite the minimal movement on stage, that the crowd responded to every single note being played.
What Conan do incredibly well with their brand of doom metal is never stick to one formula, the introductions of d-beats and faster melodies in certain sections of their songs really does keep you engaged as a listener. The band also gave those fans who have been with them since day one a little treat by playing the first song they ever wrote in the form of ‘Foehammer’ before splitting the room in two for a wall of death as the band crashed into ‘Paincantation’.
Conan clocked in nearly an hour and a half of doom infused metal, but every second was soaked up by this hungry crowd. Even if you did leave Exchange with tinnitus then you know the night was totally worth it.
Images and words: Tim Birkbeck