Album Title: Páthos
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date of Release: 1 July 2022
I can’t quite believe that it has been over four years since I first wrapped my ears around ‘Mire’, the debut album from UK-based metal band Conjurer. Despite being described as a sludge/post-metal outfit with strong doom leanings, I had to give them a go at the time because of the hyperbole and excitement about them in the metal community. And you know what? I loved the album, lavishing a 9.5/10 score. Admittedly, I may have been a touch too overzealous with my marking, because hindsight would suggest that I have not listened to ‘Mire’ quite as much as I thought I would after its release. Nevertheless, the debut was undoubtedly hugely impressive and so I have been looking forward to investigating the long-awaited follow-up, ‘Páthos’.
Four years on and whilst there have, inevitably, been one or two changes to life in general, Conjurer have withstood it all and remain fully intact. This means that both guitarists and vocalists Brady Deeprose and Dan Nightingale remain in place alongside bassist Conor Marshall and drummer Jan Krause. As we heard with ‘Mire’, this quartet can create a fearsome noise when they want to, and it was my fervent hope that this would continue with ‘Páthos’. It definitely works in their favour that they are unchanged, because there was a definite magic to this quartet’s debut; it felt like they were a well-honed unit, able to work as a team to create some truly powerful music. You’ll not be overly surprised to learn then, that the same sentiment can be levelled at the sophomore outing.
However, the magic manifests itself in a slightly different manner this time around, as ‘Páthos’ is very much an album that seeks to expand the sound of the quartet in a number of ways. As with the debut, listeners are not denied the sheer Earth-shaking force of Conjurers huge riffs and walls of sound. However, it is clear that the band wanted to explore other avenues as well, to take their music in a number of different directions in the process. As a result, you’ll hear some supremely heavy and intimidating music that contains Conjurer’s usual blend of sludge, doom, death, and post-metal. But these sections are more overtly interspersed and laced with various influences, quieter moments of contemplation, a greater sense of the progressive, and also (unless I’m terribly mistaken) a dash more melody too. Whereas the debut was akin to being attacked by a blunt tool to the head, ‘Páthos’ is more of an attack by a Swiss Army Knife, or at least a nifty multitool. For the avoidance of doubt, it’ll still hurt, but the attack will have slightly more finesse about it.
The first witness to all this isn’t slow in coming forward, being the first of the album’s eight songs, ‘It Dwells’. Opening with vibrant acoustic guitar strumming and gentle but dark electronic samples we’re lulled into a false sense of security that’s soon obliterated by a savage attack; bulldozing drums, monolithic bass, and heavy guitars combine with some bestial growls and caustic shrieks to send the listener reeling. It isn’t long though until we’re dealt some groove and a deeply shrouded, almost hidden melody that becomes more pronounced as the song unfolds. The music becomes positively beautiful when the aggression is replaced for a short while with a gorgeous, almost whimsical section, full of acoustic guitar picking, and chilled percussion. Later in the piece Conjurer experiment with more lurching rhythmic riffs, and a much more doom-infused approach borne out by the lumbering pace but overlaid by a surprisingly poignant lead guitar line. The sheer complexity of the song, coupled with the masterful ebb and flow has me salivating over what’s to come next.
The answer is ‘Rot’, a dense, suffocating affair that seeks to terrify the listener with its dark, cloying atmospheres and uncomfortable yet compelling dissonance. This is not a song for lovers of easy-listening music but there is something about it that makes it impossible to pull away. Instead, I get drawn into the calculated horror that’s created and which comes seeping out of the speakers with a twisted malevolence. I’m not normally a fan of music like this, but so brilliantly executed is it, that I am pulled in willingly.
Quite possibly my favourite of all of the compositions comes next in the form of ‘All You Will Remember’. For the first time on ‘Páthos’, we hear some clean vocals, and they are devastatingly delivered, sending shivers down my spine every time they emerge. The song has a greater quota of melody within it too, which works well with the clean vocals and, at the death, the spoken-word female voice of guest musician Alice Zawadzki. In fact, the combination of the sorrowful melodies, heartfelt vocals and the melancholy subject matter all ensure that this is quite possibly the most poignant and moving composition that Conjurer have ever written. Of course, there are some impossibly heavy moments within the song, but the heaviest thing of all here, is the emotion that runs through the music like a rich vein of intoxicating misery.
The drumming that features within ‘Basilisk’ is literally thunderous, the monstrous double-pedal assault creating a clever juxtaposition with the gentleness of the song’s opening minute or so. But, again, the melodic sensibilities are clear for all to hear, and they just serve to raise the song even higher in my estimations; it would have been so easy to just bludgeon the listener with a relentless blast of power and barely contained noise, but the musicians here are far too talented and intelligent to allow that to happen.
Staking a strong claim for my favourite song alongside ‘All You Will Remember’ is the scintillating ‘Those Years, Condemned’ a supremely weighty and bruising composition that hits the sweet spot between punishing doom-laden heaviness and melody, cleverly abutted to ‘Suffer Alone’, a sub three minute blitz of fast-paced intensity with an almost punk attitude buried within it.
‘Páthos’ is rounded out by arguably the doomiest of them all, ‘In Your Wake’, and then the atmospheric splendour of ‘Cracks In The Pyre’, which carries all of the grandeur that a closer to an album of this magnitude demands and more besides. I could say an awful lot more about each, but for the sake of brevity and in an effort to give you something to discover for yourselves, I’ll leave the descriptions there. Suffice to say that if my descriptions of the previous six have piqued your interest, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in the final portion of the album, too.
With the debut, ‘Mire’, I was completely blindsided as I knew not what to expect. The situation is different this time around, but I find myself no less impressed, or in awe. And that’s a tribute to the skill, vision, and bravery of the four musicians here in Conjurer; even though I knew roughly what to expect, I didn’t expect it to be this good. And I love the fact that the band have kept their core sound intact whilst willingly experimenting and pushing the boundaries that little bit further. The added melody, the increased variety, and the extra experimentation all conspire to create an album that will rightly receive huge plaudits from across the metal spectrum. Don’t dither, don’t dally, just part with your cash now and immerse yourself in a true extreme metal highlight of 2022.
The Score of Much Metal: 94%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: