Metal isn’t known for collaborations. Perhaps the most common example of collaborations is supergroups, but those fall flat more often than not. Features are becoming more common these days, but still aren’t as prevalent as in other genres like hip hop. But what we have here is neither of these. Although very different sonically, this is an instance like the Waste of Space Orchestra (Oranssi Pazuzu + Dark Buddha Rising) album released earlier this year where two metal bands merge to create something truly outstanding.
Pijn and Conjurer are both UK bands whose respective outputs are a bit hard to nail down subgenre-wise. However, they’ve united Voltron-style to create an album that can be described in one word: triumphant. This album sounds most like Baroness on the Red Album, but rather than sounding like a dollar-store-brand Baroness, the bands elevate the style to 2019 standards. Curse These Metal Hands is gloriously sludgy, with the occasional blackened, prog, and post-metal elements thrown in.
Opener “High Spirits” is the stand-out among stand-outs. It starts with a chorale of clean guitars that slowly build until the distortion kicks in on the exultant verses. The vocals here, as in the subsequent songs, are gripping – melodic bellows are shadowed by guttural, blackened roars. There’s a lot to love throughout the course of the song: epic guitar harmonies, intense blast beats, righteous guitar trills, an acoustic passage, and rolling hammer-ons. “The Pall” starts off incredibly dark, but slowly transforms into a triumphant march. There’s a brilliant juxtaposition as this transition nears completion; the dudes lay down some of their harshest vocals before parading into that joyful march.
“Endeavour” makes a name for itself by being the only short song on the record, coming in at a little over 2 minutes. It features a mighty riff that would be right at home on Mastodon’s Remission. This is also the only song that doesn’t venture into major key terrority. In the song’s short run time, the band lays waste to everything in its path before laying the foundations of the rejoiceful closer “Sunday”. This song contains a ton of great guitar moments, my favorite being those massive, swirling guitar bends that drop at the 3:20 mark. We are also treated to some great vocal harmonies in this song, in addition to those powerful harsh vocals we’ve come to enjoy previously. After keeping the energy at maximum for the song’s first half, the band winds things down with some acoustics and synths. Then, a lone clean guitar emerges, and strides into a monumental outro section. For the firework-finish to this 10 minute odyssey, there is a reprise of the main theme of opener “High Spirits”.
Don’t let all this mention of long songs scare you off. In the wrong hands, long songs can meander or feel like a chore to listen to, but these guys are very successful at keeping things engaging. In addition to crushing riffs, unforgettable leads, and powerful vocals, the band makes great use of dynamics to keep you on your toes. With their combined talents, the collective makes the most out of each second of all four songs on the album.
And that’s it. Those are all of the songs on the album. What the fuck guys! Sure, you could say this is a stellar EP, but it’s being presented as an album, so I’m treating it as such. It would be great if there was just one more song on this thing. Even another 2 minute rager would have been enough – this is just too good to only be half an hour long. But hey, I guess it’s better to leave the listener wanting more than to make an over bloated album.
This collaboration is a major victory for Pijn and Conjurer! Every song is triumphant, every moment is engaging, every riff and fill is tasty, and overall it’s a fun listen. The bands came together to create something different from their respective outputs, and the result is at least as good (if not better). I truly hope this isn’t a one-off thing, but regardless, this is one of the best metal albums of the year so far.
Best Tracks: there’s only 4, so all of the above
Weakest Tracks: N/A
FFO: Baroness, YOB, Pallbearer
Overall Score: A