Written by Ellis Heasley
>Conjurer – Páthos
>Releases July 1st
>Nuclear Blast Records
There’s a sizable corner of the metal world (present company included) for whom Páthos by Conjurer is likely their most anticipated album of the year. 2018’s Mire has quickly earned its place in conversations of the best metal records of the past decade or so, while the British four-piece’s 2019 collaboration with post-metal collective Pijn followed less than 18 months later to provide further proof of a band of even further range and craft. Big boots to fill then with full-length number two, but fill them they absolutely do.
It’s probably best to start with a bit of an explainer for the uninitiated, whoever they may be at this point. Essentially what Conjurer do – on both Mire and Páthos – is draw from just about every corner of extreme music you can think of and roll it all into one of the bleakest packages you’ve ever heard. Now, that might sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but honestly, death, doom, black metal, post-metal, hardcore, progressive metal, sludge – it really is all there and then some. Most important though is that it doesn’t feel all chopped up and stitched together, but rather stands as a complete and cohesive work from a band with a clear sense of who they are and what they do best.
It also would have been easy – forgivable even – for Conjurer to have played it safe and made Mire Part II this time around, but that isn’t what happens here at all. Before you get ahead of yourself, don’t panic, the overall spirit definitely remains the same; it’s just that the band have also quite clearly sought to push themselves further still. Somehow, Páthos often manages to up the sheer sense of dread of its predecessor for example, including not least in the creeping menace that opens the album’s second track “Rot”. This soon makes for a harrowing early highlight for the record as a whole too, the atmosphere remaining thick and heavy as the band deliver a kind of slow and devastating dissonance that feels a bit like Gojira running over The Dillinger Escape Plan with a steamroller.
Perhaps more than anything else however, Páthos is a record that’s defined time and again by the band’s ability to lean so heavily on startling dynamic and melodic contrasts while also always maintaining a clear overall direction and flow. Take the abject terror of the aforementioned “Rot” for example; it’s comfortably one of the nastiest tracks on the entire record, but it’s followed immediately by the clean vocals, post-metal grandeur and blackgazey blasts of “All You Will Remember”. Or after that, fourth track “Basilisk” spends most of its time embellished by sparkly clean guitar leads, only for these to be balanced out by a closing breakdown that’s arguably heavier than anything the band have ever done (seriously – those last 40 seconds are as straight up bone-crushing as any deathcore band is likely to manage anytime soon, only they hit all the harder thanks to the relative space which surrounds them).
It’s their ability to balance all this which ensures that Conjurer don’t struggle for attention at any point during Páthos’ reasonably demanding 52-minute runtime. Even with the record well and truly in flow the band still find ways to keep listeners on their toes, including for example by throwing the two-and-a-half-minute blast of blackened Converge-worship that is sixth track “Suffer Alone” directly between the lengthier and heftier post/doom metal of “Those Years, Condemned” and “In Your Wake”. Again, and crucially, this never feels like a scattershot approach; each track offers plenty of its own ideas, and yet it always invariably feels true to the overall vision of both Páthos as a record and Conjurer as a band.
Turning perhaps to the most pressing question of all – and be warned there’s a pretty wanky answer incoming – does Páthos surpass Mire? It’s hard to say at this point; to compare a brand new record to an album that people have had four years to come to know and love so deeply is ultimately a thankless task. What it is fair to say however is that Páthos manages to preserve pretty much all of the best things about its predecessor – the riffs, the dual vocal attack, the refusal to be pigeonholed into any one genre – while also revealing new and arguably more mature sides to Conjurer’s overall sound. That’s an achievement by any metric, and more than enough to at least start making a case for Páthos’ supremacy.
THE BOTTOM LINE
At the end of the day, and whichever way you cut it, Conjurer are a remarkable band – quite possibly the UK’s finest in fact – so it’s no great surprise that Páthos is another remarkable record. Most people probably won’t need much convincing to check this one out already, but if for some reason you are still on the fence then the sheer power of these eight tracks could well be enough to knock you off it for good.