Pijn and Conjurer - Curse These Metal Hands (Cover Artwork)

Pijn and Conjurer

Curse These Metal Hands (2019)

Holy Roar

In early 2018, 2 of the UK’s most promising heavy bands (Pijn and Conjurer) came up with something a bit different for their upcoming appearances at Arctangent festival. The 2 bands were stablemates on Holy Roar and beyond that, were just good old-fashioned mates as well, having spent a lot of time together on and off the road. So they endeavoured to spend some more time together, coming up with Curse These Metal Hands. The name itself is a reference to Peep Show (a British cult sitcom, for the uninitiated) and that sort of sets the tone for the overall ambience of the project to some extent; and I’ll explain why.

If you’re at all familiar with either of the bands involved, then you’ll know that neither of their recent debut records (Conjurer’s Mire and Pijn’s Loss) are exactly cheery. As a snapshot, Conjurer trade in excoriating, brutal riff-driven modern metal with sludge, hardcore and even blackened influences contributing to their overall sound. Pijn are a post-rock/metal band whose incredibly cinematic debut covers 66 minutes over 8 songs, based around the stages of grief. Their sound includes lap steel, cello, violin and more besides to create deeply emotionally-involving tapestries of sound. Often in equal parts delicate and incredibly heavy (the 18-minute “Unspoken” arguably being the best example of this and centrepiece of the record).

With all that in mind, you might imagine that this supergroup/side project/experiment might be a bit bleak? Well, that’s just not the case. Instead of resulting in a progressive, sludgy quagmire (which I’d have been cool with as well, to be honest), from the opening bars it’s clear that the members are experimenting with another side of their collective creativity. Album opener “High Spirits” is certainly aptly titled and the first 3 minutes of its 9-minutes runtime sounds like a cross between “Albatross” by Fleetwood Mac and Baroness. The song then crashes fully into life, with a truly cheerful heaviness (if that makes sense) that is extremely rare in modern music, heavy or otherwise.

With 3 guitarists/vocalists, (Brady and Dan from Conjurer, Joe from Pijn) a bass player (Luke from Pijn) and drummer (Nick, also from Pijn) all cutting loose across the record’s 4 songs, then there is great diversity on show, even within the confines of each of the individual songs. Like when the heavier passages in “High Spirits” sweep you up with them, it’s not long before the major key arpeggios and Thin Lizzy-esque mellifluous dual leads bring you floating back with a smile on your face. All 3 vocalists are screamers by trade but remain very distinct from one another and when they combine, it really serves to bolster the ‘gang of buddies making music’ feel of the songs. It exudes camaraderie and in a way that sits perfectly with the nature of the songwriting.

3 of the 4 tracks are around the 9-10 minute mark with only “Endeavour” anomalously clocking in at 2:20. It’s probably the heaviest track on display in conventional terms (although “The Pall has moments of discordant dread that also evoke the band’s day jobs) and the one that maybe conforms most to what people might have expected this collaboration to sound like, but is a really interesting counterpoint to the long-form nature of the other 3 tracks. As it closes out, in comes “Sunday”. A song which involves huge weighty crescendos, sparse, almost electronic-influenced guitar sections alongside acoustic refrains and more besides. If that sounds a bit crazy and ambitious, well…I suppose it is. But in a way that never feels anything more than generous, absorbing and as far away from proggy self-indulgence as you can get, somehow.

CTMH is undeniably a unique listen. Long songs in a short overall run time, heaviness infused with happiness, 2 bands who thrive in the dark, making something that, at times, simply oozes warmth and joy. Rarely do musical experiments like this turn out so unexpectedly or so brilliantly.