Conjurer - Páthos (Cover Artwork)


Páthos (2022)

Nuclear Blast

Ah, Conjurer. One of, if not the great British metal hope du jour. People pricked up their ears when the band released 4-track EP “I” back in 2016. But they really sat up and took notice when Mire dropped in 2018. The level of technical ability, compositional nous and a degree of heaviness that can grind your bones to dust, had crowds and critics alike salivating. It just doesn’t happen this way very often in this end of heavy music. When it’s this good, you’re looking at the Converges, the Cult Of Lunas, the Neurosis’ of this world. These were a group of guys in their early 20’s making some of the most accomplished and emotionally engaging heavy music Britain had produced in a generation. So what gives?

It’s been four long years since the debut full-length. And four pretty unusual years, at that. Conjurer have been busy, despite this perceived absence. They recorded an Audiotree live session, Dan and Brady released a record with their friends from Pijn in the form of Curse These Metal Hands and there was a split with Palm Reader as well. But with the adoration and praise heaped on the debut, Páthos has felt like an awful long time coming. But when the material is of this quality and complexity, you wouldn’t want it rushed. And to be clear, there is no question whatsoever that the time Conjurer have taken is fully justified. There is an even greater focus on emotional impact in Páthos. The steps and shifts taken to achieve that, are something I could talk about forever, frankly. The concept of traditional song structure is something that has never particularly bothered Conjurer, and apart from a few fleeting passages, the songs just flow, basically. Not in a necessarily comforting or soothing way. It’s more like you’re navigating your way across a sea of tumultuous, heaving quicksand where the ever-present possibility of being overwhelmed is not only present, but is almost tangible and frequently oppressive.

There is little point in me trying to dip into individual songs to discuss their tone or character, as they’re rarely the same song for more than 15-20 seconds. I’m reminded of Rorschach from The Watchmen. His face, shrouded, but perpetually shifting. A thin veil between you and that which lies underneath. Malice, torment and a psychological undercurrent that terrifies and inflames the imagination in equal parts. The intermittent presence of acoustic guitars and clean vocals provide both dynamics and a counterpoint to the extraordinary heft of the passages when the band decided to unleash the full fury of their combined, focused misanthropy. Yet you still have a song like “Suffer Alone”. Basically a two-and-a-half-minute metallic hardcore rager. Because Conjurer can do that whenever they want to, to be honest. But it only has the impact they want it to when they use it sparingly. Again, a sign of wisdom beyond their years.

Scrabbling around for legitimate criticism is not only anathema to my general feelings towards this record, it’s also incredibly difficult to do. Perhaps one could allege that the music Conjurer make is too “muso” or chin-strokey, but that is obviously something that people who are more concerned with brevity and simplicity are likely to say. You could possibly argue it doesn’t have the visceral impact of Mire, but it does still exist, just more sporadically. Also, complex and shifting as the musicianship is, it is always engaging. The band are always going somewhere. The complexity of composition that the band use to make that journey is secondary to what that sound actually does to you, the listener. Even the spoken word and folk-influenced section in “All You Remember” which could otherwise come across as proggy or silly, precedes one of the most impactful blastbeat drops I’ve heard in years. And the song goes on from there as well. That’s still not the final destination, just a stop along the way.

Conjurer have created something of unquestionable and rare quality in Páthos. The wait has been worth it, their few critics, surely silenced. Recent months have seen them tour extensively and one assumes that will not only continue in the wake of this new record but the band will step up to their own headline tours and if there is any justice in the world, these songs will continue to find a wider audience. The patience and craft that Conjurer have displayed here makes a mockery of both the concept of a difficult second album and also the suggestion that they were ever being over-hyped. If anything, we have to concede that whatever praise was heaped upon Conjurer around the release of Mire was not only warranted, but equally, the conjecture around them being one of the elite metal bands in waiting has also come to prove wholly deserved.