(We present Andy Synn’s review of the new album by the UK band Conjurer, which will be released on February 23rd by Holy Roar.)
I want to begin this review with a confession – I am extremely envious of Conjurer’s ongoing (and hard-earned) success.
I’m not jealous (that actually means something slightly different), nor do I feel that their success is in any way undeserved. In fact I hope I’ve contributed to it, in my own small way, by covering several of the band’s live shows and their EP, here at NCS.
But I do think that, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, being in a band and seeing someone else do so well will always arouse some feelings of envy. It’s an entirely natural reaction, and not necessarily a bad thing (unless it turns bitter), as it should in turn push you to do better, to think bigger, and to work harder.
However, apparently it’s something we’re not supposed to talk about since it so clearly runs counter to the whole “brotherhood of Metal” concept that we’re meant to at least pay lip-service to.
There’s one thing I definitely don’t envy though, and that’s the excessive hype and fawning flattery which I’ve seen Mire receive elsewhere on the internet.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a GREAT album, which fully capitalises on the nascent promise of their previous EP, as well as finally capturing the raw and visceral nature of the band’s live performance in all its glory.
But there’s a fine line between enthusiastic praise and simpering sycophancy, and some of the more ingratiating comparisons I’ve seen thrown around elsewhere – “this year’s Code Orange”, “the new Deafheaven”, “the next Gojira” – come dangerously close to crossing it.
Of course I have nothing against the use of comparisons to other bands. In fact I do it myself all the time, and find that it can be an invaluable tool when used correctly, particularly in cases where the band(s) in question may not be all that well known.
However this sort of gushing adulation frequently tells you more about the reviewer’s capacity for hyperbole than it does about the actual music and, in this case in particular, sets an almost impossibly high standard by which the band will inevitably be judged.
The truth of the matter is that while it certainly has enough depth and variety to appeal to a wide cross-section of Metal fans, Mire is a far uglier, far dirtier, and far less marketable album than the most recent offerings by any of those artists mentioned above.
And that’s no bad thing. In fact it shows that Conjurer aren’t trying to fit into any one particular mould, and aren’t overly concerned by commercial aspirations or the various concessions and compromises necessary to “make it big”.
It also makes it far easier to ignore the melodramatic (and, frankly, rather misleading) comparisons being made elsewhere, and to judge the album entirely on its own merits.
With a sound built upon a potent foundation of heaving, sludgy riffs, doomy, Post Metal atmospherics, and frantic eruptions of barely-controlled chaos – topped off with a thick crust of grimy Death Metal influences and perhaps just the barest frisson of blackened melody – references to Crowbar, Neurosis, and underappreciated Noisecore pioneers Will Haven, would certainly be more valid (though perhaps less headline-grabbing) than others. However, the Warwickshire quartet are clearly dead set on forging their own identity, rather than riding the coattails of their more famous forebears.
Nowhere is this more apparent than on the utterly monstrous “Of Flesh Weaker Than Ash”, the album’s penultimate (and best) track, which finds the Conjurer crew exploring and integrating all the different facets of their sound into one cohesive, and utterly crushing, whole that is infinitely greater than the mere sum of its parts.
It’s far from the only killer cut the album has up its sleeve too, as from the prodigious pummelling delivered by blast-happy opener “Choke” all the way through to the gut-churning, gravel-throated strains of titanic closer “Hadal”, via the furious feeding-frenzy of “Retch” and the blighted melodic majesty of the title-track, there’s not a single weak or wasted moment to be found on the entire record.
Of course that doesn’t mean it’s entirely perfect. The back-to-back pairing of “Hollow” and “Thankless” does undercut the initial momentum established by “Choke” a little, making the album’s second half surprisingly stronger than the first, and there are occasional moments throughout the record where things become so hectic that it feels like the band themselves might be getting a little bit dizzy, but overall Mire is not just a resounding success, it’s also an early contender for one of the best debut albums (if not best albums in general) of the year.
Don’t believe the hype. Just believe your ears. It really is that good.