Conjurer – ‘Mire’

By James Lee

Heavy metal was, at its point of conception, very British. Though you could argue yourself blue in the face whether the very first truly ‘metal’ band was Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath (it’s Sabbath, don’t be a dummy), either way you cut it, the fact is that the most ear-splitting of musical genres was birthed here on our fair isle. For its first decade or so, metal continued to be ruled by the Brits too, with everyone from Judas Priest to Venom to Iron Maiden operating unchallenged at the top of their game. And then somewhere in the early ’80s, something changed. Our transatlantic cousins stepped up their game, and in the wake of the double-pronged attack of both hair metal and thrash, our little United Kingdom no longer held a firm grasp on the heavy music world, nor would we really again.

Sure, there have been British metal bands in the last few years to have made waves artistically and critically (SikTh, Bossk, Rolo Tomassi), and others who have achieved stunning mainstream success (Bullet For My Valentine, Bring Me The Horizon), but it’s been many a decade since a British metal act has been able to marry legitimate success with genuine critical acclaim from anything other than lowest-common-denominator ‘heavy’ music press. Well, ladies and gentlemen, allow us to present to you Conjurer, and their frankly jaw-dropping debut full-length album, ‘Mire’, because this could (and should) be the album that finally gives our tiny little island a new band who are able to operate on the same artistic and commercial level as any Mastodons or Gojiras you care to throw their way.

‘Mire’ is such a densely and richly packed smorgasbord of everything that is exciting and invigorating about modern heavy music that it’s difficult to know where to begin. So, logically, the album’s opener ‘Choke’ is probably smart. Beginning with a jarringly major-chord-heavy gambit, anyone who’d hungrily devoured the band’s 2016 debut EP ‘I’ could have been forgiven for thinking they’d accidentally put a Torche record on. It takes very little time for the other (concrete) shoe to drop though, a tidal wave of soul-cracking guitars and drums crashing from the speakers as co-shredders/vocalists Dan Nightingale and Brady Deeprose exorcise every demon within a 60 mile radius with their harrowing bellows. Blast beats and full-rage thrash-outs interweave seamlessly with walls of monolithic riffing and bottomed-out sludge, and this is only the first song.

‘Hollow’ eases off of the accelerator just a touch, allowing the band some breathing room as they interject a deft touch of melody into their sound, and it sits as naturally within their wheelhouse as the full-tilt black metal assault that opens ‘Thankless’. ‘Retch’ bounces from borderline tech-death one second into rampaging hardcore the next, before again slamming on the breaks and lurching into a gut-churning sludge riff that would rattle even Primitive Man’s windows. Lead single and quasi-title-track ‘The Mire’ stands as the album’s towering centrepiece, epic and devastating in equal measure thanks to some finely-pitched screams and a wash of blackened atmosphere. ‘Of Flesh Weaker Than Ash’ slow-burns with the kind of low-end groove that most djent bands would sell their 9-string guitars to be able to write, and album closer ‘Hadal’ feels like a long, agonising descent into Hell. In that good, heavy metal way.

Hard to pin down with a single easy descriptor, Conjurer’s apocalyptic vision of heavy music pulls from almost every corner of the extreme universe, yet such care and thought is poured into every second that it never feels messy or haphazard. Their closest possible comparison point would be the trans-European collective The Ocean, though even then it took that ever-evolving group of musicians the best part of a decade and dozens of member-changes before they achieved the first fully realised version of their sound on 2007’s ‘Precambrian’. Conjurer have managed to concoct this very-reasonably comparable piece of progressive art on just their second release as a band, after only a few short years together, and with all of its members still wallowing in the shallow end of their 20’s. ‘Mire’ could only be the beginning of a very long and illustrious career for these four lads from Rugby, and the very notion that things could get better from here is simultaneously laughable and terribly exciting. Conjurer are the band our country has needed for a very long time, and long may they reign over us.

JAMES LEE

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