Blackened sludge quartet Conjurer are hitting the road, so we thought it would be a perfect time to ask them about what makes them tick. It’s not often you get to hear this kind of plodding doom with the kind of songcraft the quartet performs. It’s not just big and filthy for the sake of it. There’s a method here that’s used very effectively and deliberately. So we thought we’d just let them explain it to you.
Be sure to catch them live. They’ll be touring throughout the US in March 2019 with Rivers of Nihil, Entheos, and Wolf King. Then they’ll be skipping back to Europe for Roadburn sets and a few shows in the UK. But until that time, let guitarist and vocalist Dan Nightingale fill you in on the songwriting details.
The Antlers – Hospice
This is quite possibly the saddest album I’ve ever heard… I could end this section there, but I won’t! The thing I love most about this album is the fact that I learn more and more about it with every listen. I first discovered it from literally Googling “saddest albums”, and after taking a punt and buying it online, I discovered that it wasn’t just an album full of gorgeously harrowing tunes, but a concept album about a hospice worker treating and falling in love with a female patient with bone cancer. And not only that, like all good art, the emotional heft doesn’t resign itself merely to the concept it bears; it has the capacity to touch the core of anyone who gives it the time. There’s coming to understand an album from a technical and sonic standpoint, and then there’s coming to understand one from an emotional standpoint. I dare you to listen to this album and not feel something.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
This is an album that I know I will listen to in 10, 20, 30 years’ time and still be able to feel the same way I did the moment I fell in love with it. Many know Justin Vernon from the first Bon Iver album as the falsetto-, plaid-, and acoustic-guitar adorning songster that brought “Skinny Love” into the repertoire of Tumblr cover artists and coffee shops. But by this point, he was forming an orchestra, made up entirely of his friends and making decisions that bemused me at points, but eventually seeped into my heart as charming and comforting lullabies. The first few times I heard it I was mildly confused; I felt a lot of the instrumentation was odd and didn’t make as much sense as it could, some of the songs didn’t quite “go anywhere”, and some of the production choices felt hodgepodge, but over time this album taught me to embrace experimentation, to have patience and faith in the artists decisions, and above all, it taught me that by doing the above, I could learn to love it.
Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Every music listener has an album in their collection that at one moment in time raised the bar for what they thought music could accomplish higher than any they’d heard before. Whether you consider it the best album you’d heard or not, I won’t get into that, but it makes you reassess music as you’ve known it up to that point and essentially changes the landscape in terms of the routes music can go down and makes the possibilities seem even more endless than they already were. This Daughters record is the most recent case of that for me. It both terrifies me and excites me beyond belief; one moment I feel like I’m being swallowed up by some unfathomable dread, and the next I’m ecstatic over the face that music really can be this good.
Have A Nice Life – The Unnatural World
Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong reviews on the wrong forums, but I don’t feel this album gets anywhere near as much love as it deserves. I guess it’s fair enough when your first album was Deathconsciousness, a record that I barely feel the need to give much exposition on at this point*, but The Unnatural World has left just as big a stamp on my influences as the aforementioned record… which to me says a lot when this one is near-enough half the length of the former. The concise nature of this album and the greater focus on songs as a band would write and perform them gives me a bit more of something to be inspired by as opposed to the two-man bedroom project that the first album was. Going on the opener “Guggenheim Wax Museum” alone, it leaves as much of an imprint on the kind of atmosphere and textures I would love to experiment with as anything from the first album, and much like the new Daughters, I feel the time in between has done nothing but wonders in terms of expanding their palette yet refining what’s on it.
*Reverse psychology tells me this will encourage all that haven’t heard it to go listen to it.
Liturgy – The Ark Work
I remember this album getting a predominantly negative reception upon release; people whinging about Hunter Hunt-Hendrix mostly, and his theological essays regarding “transcendental black metal” (I know right), but when our drummer Jan saw them supporting Three Trapped Tigers and subsequently suggested I give them ago, the initial bemusement I felt towards the album gradually turned to intrigue. I imagine if you forced a computer to listen to 1000 hours of black metal and then get it to write an album, this is what it would spit back at you. It’s by no means perfect; the production leaves a lot to be desired, and a couple of tracks seem redundant to me, but pushing past those flaws, it’s an album that’s melodic sensibilities and fearlessness astound me, clinical one second and climactic the next, and it’s left an imprint on my songwriting for sure.
The Twilight Sad – Nobody Wants to Be Here & Nobody Wants to Leave
This is despair in its most beautiful and accessible form: cyclic yet expansive, cold yet immediate, dour yet cathartic, all without ever seeming pretentious or set on style over substance. What puts them above so many bands of their ilk for me is that the music is as down to earth and familiar as the groups they seem to take influence from (Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Siouxsie & The Banshees) without seeming like mere copyists. There’s an ethereal yet infectious nature to this album that transcends genre and becomes something that sits comfortably in multiple musical landscapes and could be just as suited in a 300 cap bar as a 12,000 cap arena (as they’ve already proven, courtesy of Robert Smith taking them out on a recent tour with The Cure), and if that’s not something be to inspired by, I don’t know what is.