With so many bands trying to get their feet in the door at once, young bands must rely more and more on the quality of their debuts. Lucky for UK quartette Conjurer, their amalgamation of Converge-esque metallic hardcore, crushing prog-sludge, post-black metal and Swedish death metal—which the band dubs "post-sludge"—has amounted to an incredible freshman release. Mire outshines many long-standing practitioners in brilliant songwriting, ferocious brutality and dynamic ingenuity.
The album's two singles delineate the basic components of Conjurer's approach. "Retch" fires all cylinders and smashes listeners in the face with angular riff-mongering, break-neck rhythm shifts and one of the most mosh-worthy breakdowns of the year. It's catchy, precise, and completely decimating—complete with venomously snarled lyrics like "There is no shelter 'til ever shred of hope is ripped from the sinews."
In contrast, the title track swings from clean guitar into impassioned modulations and urgent drums similar to Oathbreaker, over which soar clean and harsh vocals and emotive lyrics: "This night, my body will endure the torment my God and Creator deems it worthy to receive." Am album only centered around "Retch" and "The Mire" would be more than enough, but Conjurer's emphasis on massive production, inventive melodies and airtight grooves bring much more to the table.
Opening Track "Choke" subverts expectations by inexplicably inserting major chords into meat-and-potatoes sludge metal. While the song's central riff allows bassist Andy Price and drummer Jan Krause to jump to and from multiple feels, guitarists and songwriting core Dan Nightingale and Brady Deeprose's harmonic sensibilities truly put Conjurer in a league of their own. A mathy breakdown careens into dissonant black metal before noodling guitar transitions into "Hollow"
Conjurers attention to detail and aesthetic shines both in this track's composition and emotional impact. Nightingale and Deeprose counterbalance changes with powerful growls and sorrowful shrieks—telling riveting struggles both internal and external within a cruel, untamed world. Technical ability enhances the band's arrangements, leaving softer sections plenty of room to breathe and pushing the culminating crescendo's spine-tingling melodies to an intoxicating height. Conjurer's insatiable dexterity and arresting auras only continue momentum, as "Thankless" proves.
The longest and most involved track on the album, "Thankless" pushes Conjurer's chops to the limit. Under two minutes in, and fervent vocal melodies upend the song's frenzied start, but the best is yet to come with a Lantôs-style segway from jazz fusion to walls of blackened tremolo picking and blast beating. Whether it be straight up Tesseract-style progressive metal or majestic post-metal explorations, ideas abound intuitive synchronization. Krause and Price provide a concrete backbone of flawlessly executed drum and bass hits by which Nightingale and Deeprose churn out on unforgettable riff after another.
As fluid as they are polarized, Conjurer make certain each of their songs remain tasteful as they juggle several feels at once. A song like "Of Flesh Weaker than Ash" might seem disjointed on paper, jumping from ambient rock to hardcore beatdowns, but it flows naturally as the band fixates on infectious refrains in the midst of stylistic juggling. Every instrument remains essential, as chord progressions and beats commingle in skull-bashing heaviness and explorative moodiness. The results are so varied, that one could easily think the Electric Wizard-style doom metal intro of concluding track "Hadal" was just another part of the previous song.
The most compelling part of Mire is how it packs so many gripping passages into 44 minutes, finding the perfect middle ground between density and taste. "Hadal" wraps things up appropriately by spotlighting Conjurer's stoner riffs and post-metal atmospheres, but they can't help but leave listeners with a several more dismembering fight riffs. It might be all over the map, but Mire always remains rooted in gargantuan breakdowns and memorable melodies. It's hard to say where Conjurer will go after releasing such a stupendous debut, but it goes without saying that they have their work cut out for them with regard to topping it.
BOTTOM LINE: Conjurer came out of seemingly nowhere and blew their competition out of the water. There's literally nothing wrong with this album. It's heavier than heavy, catchier than catchy and provides the best kind of emotional rollercoaster. Mire will surely go down as the one of, if not THE, best debuts of 2018.
STANDOUT TRACK: "Thankless"
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