Hello, fellow doomers. Welcome once again to Doomsday! You may have noticed some changes around here. Namely, the person who’s writing this intro. Yes, it’s true. Our dearly beloved master of ceremonies Lincoln hath departed to continue his pursuit of big boy work (DAMN YOU, THE LAW), and we wish him nothing but the greatest things as a fellow metalhead and dear friend of the blog. But through ceaseless tears, our monthly round-up of all that is low and slow trudges forward like the restless mammoth it is. Soon to be at the helm of this endeavor is the one-and-only Pete Williams, with myself popping in periodically to share my own doomy picks from the month. New captain. Same quality content. Let’s roll.
As you’ll notice, this month is a bit more scarce in the doom release department. This is not a general indictment of doom metal’s output in 2018 or September on the whole, but rather an issue of timing for this month’s edition. Nevertheless, we’ve got two fantastic albums to share with you that obliterated our collective consciousness in September, with one in particular not only showing itself as the champion of doom for the month, but also as one of the best releases in the genre this year. So strap in and prepare for prime pulverization. It’s been a good month.
Conan – Existential Void Guardian
If you’ve ever listened to a doom record and thought, “You know, I do like this…but I just wish there was more impending dread blasted at me at earth-shattering decibels,” then you need more Conan in your life. The caveman dooming trio just released what could possibly, and probably, be the heaviest record of 2018, Existential Void Guardian. The wall of drop-tuned fuzz spares no time in slamming your brain kicking things off with “Prosper on the Path,” a doomy grinder of a track to slowly grab you by the short hairs because you need to listen up.
This is probably Conan’s best record, but it’s honestly hard to judge since Conan kind of always does what they’re really good at: tuning down the guitars, dialing up the fuzz, shouting out the vocals thick with reverb, and making sure things are slow enough that you hear it all. If it ain’t broke, right? That’s not to say they don’t experiment a little. They spread their wings into grind with “Paincantation,” a 55 second blistering track of super fast and super thick riffs and drums with about 12 seconds of vocals. The track might be the only dalliance away from their traditional sound but it’s a great expansion for them. Their thick blues and heavy psychedelic take on doom actually works well in the grind territory, so let’s hope they play with that more in the future.
I think Conan is really at their best when they up the tempo just a bit like on “Volt Thrower.” If you’re going to say that you make caveman battle doom metal, then you better have some songs that rally the barbarian hordes for war. “Volt Thrower” is that kind of track. Adding that thick fuzz to a more upbeat track just gets the blood pumping. Shouted vocals amp up the aggression, too. Pretty much anything you’d want from a Conan track is here. You don’t need a second listen to decide if you like Conan or not. Their caveman moniker is very descriptive of a primal feeling the music has. It taps into your baser instincts and gets your belligerent self running. Embrace the barbarian.
Fórn – Rites of Despair
Boston-based doom merchants Fórn don’t make particularly upbeat music. Their debut album, The Departure of Consciousness, was an eardrum-splitting showcase of sludgy, funereal doom that was about as accessible to the non-doom fan as a brick wall. Rites of Despair, the band’s sophomore record, follows in its predecessors footsteps in this regard. It’s relentlessly heavy and mercilessly slow, culminating in an audio experience that is as brutal as it is rewarding.
Rites of Despair is the very definition of a grower. Upon first listen, elements of death-doom appear through some Hooded Menace-inspired riffing (“Ritual Ascension Through a Weeping Sore”), coupled with interludes that smack somewhere along the lines of Paradise Lost or Loss (“Ego Desecration”). There’s a fair bit to digest here, which is a testament to the band’s expansion of their songwriting style. Tracks roll across the barren horizon slowly and methodically from the get-go, with “Manifestations of the Divine Root” heralding the general tone of what’s to come. “Cosmic Desolation”, outside of its spacey introduction, doubles down on the heaviness, presenting glimmers of the band’s potential as a cross-genre force. It all culminates in epic finale “Subconscious Invocations”, which blends the band’s clean, brutal, and slow elements into a boiling pot of doom metal menace that’s pretty captivating from start to finish.
Which, on the whole, is what I can say about the record. While it may take you a few listens to get into its groove and dissect what the band is trying to accomplish here, your time spent will be rewarded by an album that is carefully constructed by a band brimming with potential. For now, Fórn have cemented themselves as a band-to-watch, and if Rites of Despair is any indication, our watching and listening will be amply rewarded as this band continues to grow. Good stuff here.