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Perfecting Suffering: Conjurer On Crafting 'Páthos' and Writing Harder, Not Smarter

Wednesday, 29 June 2022 Written by Will Marshall

Photo: Joe Guppy

​Conjurer are one of the leading lights of the UK’s extreme metal scene—not that they ever expected to be in this position, and certainly not with only one album to their name. “We’ve ended up being able to do far more off ‘Mire’ than we anticipated ever being able to do as a band in general,” bassist Conor Marshall reveals. But from only a cursory listen to their hotly-anticipated second album ‘Páthos’, it becomes clear that the band are refusing to rest on their laurels by simply making ‘Mire’ part two. 

Theirs is a refreshingly gimmick-free attitude—they’re simply four people who happen to really love metal, both listening to it and sitting down to create their own take on it. This affection for the music feeds into their collective sense of patience, where they are happy to invest time into the process rather than churning out an album every year in order to capitalise on any momentum. “We would rather struggle, and the outcome be worth it,” Conor puts it. 

Instead of writing on tour, or taking every second of downtime to throw songs together, he explains that the band in fact never create on the road. They don’t even get together in the same room and jam together. “We very much sit right at home, email it over to each other back and forth…then it goes into the nitpicking,” he explains of their often lengthy process, which has only become more drawn out due to the runaway success of ‘Mire’.

The intention had very much been, Conor says, to “tour [Mire] for about a year or so, then just crack on with the next one. But it absolutely took off.” They spent two years, not one, on the road supporting it, taking every opportunity that came their way. It effectively took a global pandemic and, as Conor puts it, “legally locking us in our houses” for the seeds of ‘Páthos’ to take root. 

As much as they’re perfectionists—the acoustic opening to lead single It Dwells took two hours to agree on what became 30 seconds of music—it’s because they all firmly believe that the best results, and the way to channel all they’ve learned over the past four years, will be achieved by taking their time. 

Speaking on the new influences that have seeped into the atmospheric, often dread-filled ‘Páthos’ over the past couple of years, Conor agrees with guitarist and vocalist Brady Deeprose, who has said that they’re looking to view the more extreme, avant-garde sounds found at the Netherlands’ Roadburn festival—bands such as the out there black metallers Imperial Triumphant or the post-metal giants in Sumac—through the lens of their early influences in Trivium, Mastodon and Gojira. 

“We wouldn’t consider ourselves smart songwriters in any way,” Conor laughs. “It can be dense, a lot going on with dual harmonies, and there are times when we could try and be clever with this thing that we’re building up. But, sometimes, let’s just give everybody what they want, including us, and just drop the riff.” 

He’s referring in part to Basilisk, the fourth track on ‘Páthos’, which reaches gradual crescendos throughout, with post-rock and even shoegaze influences jutting out, before they “drop the riff” for a breakdown heavy enough to crack the planet in half.

But Conor is oversimplifying, as he’s wont to do over the course of our near-hour long conversation. Conjurer’s music really is dense, often suffocatingly so, and the dual vocal attack of guitarists Dan Nightingale and Deeprose comes backed by Conor’s full-throated, rumbling bass.

But they don’t only hit hard sonically—the consistent thread that runs throughout ‘Páthos’ is emotion and its effects on the human mind. All You Will Remember tackles the debilitating onset of dementia and its impact on individuals and those around them, while Cracks In The Pyre examines death and the afterlife through the prism of its human toll. 

“That’s very much where the name ‘Páthos’ comes from,” Conor begins. “We were struggling to find something that fit the album as a whole, but it’s the ancient Greek that suffering comes from, and it’s also a call to emotion.” Its discovery meant they had a word that could carry that throughline despite the sometimes disparate themes. The artwork itself also taps into this reservoir of emotion and Conor happily shows us the image, which hangs in his living room, and gives us a tour of the piece. 

“We found Jean-Luc Almond and the majority of the stuff he does is painted on canvas and it has thick oil over the top of it,” he says, but for this piece Conjurer understood that his normally vibrant style wouldn’t be suitable, so Almond adapted. “We knew wanted to have a painting before we even had any of the music, lyrics or anything,” Conor states. Their experience with ‘Mire’ of scrambling at the last minute for artwork served as a lesson. The end result is striking—subdued grey hues, a figure distraught, with layers of oil paint blooming out of their face in a display of unconstrained feeling.

It’s a full package, carefully designed and put together by the band themselves as they had the time to work out all the little details, even a glossy coating to the “oil” parts of the CD art, to give it a different texture. They might describe themselves as a band that like to “drop the riff” rather than smart songwriters, but it does them a disservice. ‘Páthos’ is complex, heavy, and one of the most finely-crafted albums of the year. 

Conjurer's ‘Páthos’ is out on July 1 through Nuclear Blast.

Conjurer Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon October 31 2022 - BRISTOL Exchange
Tue November 01 2022 - MANCHESTER Rebellion
Wed November 02 2022 - GLASGOW Cathouse
Thu November 03 2022 - LEEDS Key Club
Fri November 04 2022 - LONDON Dome

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