ConanBang your head! Conan’s First Date from Hungary come from the rampant thrashing death metal camp. This is their first album after a couple of ep’s. Starting with “The Man, The Monster”, there’s a feel of Pantera or one of the big US bands about this.

I’ve now listened to “The Devil is on the Loose” a few times and have come to realise that there’s something in the patterns to suggest that Conan’s First Date are more than just a thrashing modern metal band. An unfortunate side of this album is the apparent pretension to hardcore, which results in an awful not-quite-clean vocal contribution. This seriously detracts from the powerful mix of intricate passages and interesting diversions which remain consistently within the context of brutal death metal which characterises this album. The energetic and marching “The Man, The Monster” is basically a rumbling juggernaut but it’s a bit djenty in places and triggering drums and imaginative sound effects.

“Uncovering” is in the same vein but a long haunting chant adds spice to the blackened atmosphere before giving way to a sublime guitar solo. A deep bass-sound rumbles underneath the surface. “Undead Ballet” is stoner in its outlook. It’s hard, heavy and deep and has the potential to rip your head off. The deep growls are fine and blend nicely with an imperious bluesy, even progressive-type passage. There’s plenty of interest here. The assault continues with the hard-hitting melodies of “Dethronement”. This driving track is spoilt by the tired-sounding clean vocals. I don’t know what they’re supposed to be but it just sounds like someone whining. The battery continues regardless and steps down. It’s like having large chunks of metal fly across our midst. Conan’s First Date know how to change the direction of a track between a heavy progressive style and rampant headbanging sections. It’s just those vocals. They’re awful and water it down. After the suitably-titled “Tear It Down, Break It Apart” ends with an appropriately punitive ending, Conan’s First Date embark upon “Stellar Wonder” and in the process proof that they couldn’t generate emotional effect if they tried. Oh, they are trying. At least the drum and guitar work are crunchy. Growls should go with this type of music, which amounts to a punchy wall of sound. Sadly, it’s all ruined by a laughable chorus.

“Jailbreak” has a sort of Entombed feel about it with a bit of extra brutality. At the risk of repeating myself, those “clean” vocals are winding me up. They seem to have no connection with the monstrous mayhem going on around them. “Jailbreak” became a nonentity. The idea of a choral chant, as can be found on “Revolution of the Flesh”, is a good one but it’s poorly executed. At the opposite end of the quality scale, sparks fly as usual as an epic drama develops. Finally, the band play to their strengths on “Fangs and Claws”, a heavyweight track which takes an excursion into instrumental heaven, or rather hell, before slowing down into impressive sludginess. Now this is Conan’s First Date at their best.

I detected loads of potential here but they just cannot be serious about these clean hardcore vocals. As well as being just awful, they detract musically from an album which is otherwise full of venom, fire and musical ideas.

(5.5/10 Andrew Doherty)