Friday, 6 April 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Conjurer, "Mire"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 09/03/2018
Label: Holy Roar Records

“Mire” is a laudable achievement in sludge experimentation and to my ears it sounded like the work of veterans at the peak of their powers.

“Mire” CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Choke
2. Hollow
3. Thankless
4. Retch
5. The Mire
6. Of Flesh Weaker Than Ash
7. Hadal

The Review:

Sometimes it pays to go into a piece of art blind – too often the biographical details or personal obsessions of iconic performers, writers, filmmakers or musicians can make every release from a prolific legend feel like another chapter in an ongoing biography.  Or, in another limiting way, you end up playing the comparison game: how much progress has this band/writer/director shown since their last burst of output?  Does it live up to an undisputed classic or just ape its style?  Is this a pandering bit of nostalgia bait or a bold return to form?  It’s another tired, fill in the blank method for quick, lazy criticism that ticks off the right boxes (prior knowledge, fealty to popular opinion, an obsessive attention to trivia), but usually doesn’t get into the actual merits or missteps of a particular piece of art.  Impressive debuts are intriguing but difficult for this very reason – is this artist a flash in the pan or a budding genius?  Does that even matter?  In the game of genre gatekeeping, making the “right call” on someone seems to be the coin of the realm.

Thankfully, when I threw on Conjurer’s debut “Mire”, I wasn’t bogged down by all this bullshit.  Knowing nothing about the band, I assumed it was a second or third major release – the level of confident songwriting, bold choices, and what feels like a carefully honed “Conjurer style” is so atypical of a full-length debut, I could have sworn this was a group into its second decade as a band.  From the first track, “Choke”, Conjurer establishes itself as a group that could lay down competent, crackling sludge and probably stand out among the crowd.  But then they throw in some nasty groove riffs, galloping drums, dual register high and low harsh vocals, and a measure of post-rock twang.  Guitar duo Nightingale and Deeprose trade off chugging rhythms with soaring leads, and on “Hollow”, introduce clean vocals that recall some of the best in 2000s post-hardcore.

“Thankless” pays further homage to post-hardcore, math, and borderline grind metal technicality.  A bass-driven interlude highlights bassist Conor Marshall’s considerable bass chops; there aren’t any wonky pedal modulations on here, just clean, precise groove.  My only caveat here is a somewhat flabby post-rock midsection that is initially atmospheric, but had me craving more of the brutality Conjurer invokes so well.  “Retch” and “The Mire” answered my prayers, ricocheting between blasts and grooves that attest to Jan Krause’s status as percussive deity.  “Of Flesh Weaker than Ash” is a return to classic sludge perfection riding on palm muted guitar harmonies and pornographically filthy guitar tone.  Closer “Hadal” is another “classic sludge” cut – a restrained wallow in hypnotic, minimalist misery that just hints at fat, bluesy riffing.

Whether or not Conjurer make a “compelling follow-up”, establish a headliner-level career, etc., “Mire” is a laudable achievement in sludge experimentation.  To my ears, obviously, it sounded like the work of veterans at the peak of their powers.  But as a debut, I do hope there are new soundscapes and amalgams for Conjurer to forge.  They more than promise excellence – they deliver.

“Mire” is available here

Band info: facebook || bandcamp