Counjurer- Bullingdon Arms, Oxford - 01.02.19 / Louder Live
Following the release of their debut album 'Mire' in March last year, Conjurer have been relentlessly touring the country gathering fans and critical acclaim along the way. Their album has been widely praised as one of the best metal albums of 2018; and this along with their live performances supporting bands such as Conan and performing at various festivals, has given them a solid reputation as one of the most interesting and exciting newcomers in the British metal scene. It was with this reputation that they descended on Oxford and goes a long way to explaining why the snowy conditions failed to deter the crowd that came to fill the Bullingdon Arms. Credit for this must also go to the two local favourites Desert Storm and Drore, who brought their hardcore fans out for the evening too in great numbers.
First up were doom metallers Drore, who are made up of members of Undersmile and Crippled Black Phoenix. The local supergroup, if you will, served up a lavish set of pounding rhythms and droning guitars. The band had a lot of warming up to do, what with the conditions outside, but did so exceedingly well. Frontwoman Taz Corana-Brown was an excellent focal point for the band, with her swaggering stage presence and a vocal style which was as reminiscent of 90’s grunge as anything performed by their fellow metal contemporaries. Drore are just getting established within the Oxford scene, but it is easy to why they are increasingly appearing on bills throughout the city and across the region. Keep an eye out for them coming to your city in the near future.
Following up this excellent introduction were local heroes Desert Storm. The stoner quintet have been stalwarts of the local scene for over a decade now and are increasingly starting to make a name for themselves across the rest of the country as well, particularly in the wake of last year’s Sentinels album and a slew of performances at HRH festivals over the last few years. No matter how many times they play, Desert Storm always draw an enthusiastic crowd and tonight is no exception. Launching straight into ‘Journey’s End’, they waste no time in giving the crowd what they came for, which is an onslaught of catchy riffs and pummelling grooves. Desert Storm are in top form this evening, as they continue through some songs from Sentinels. Guitarists Ryan Cole and Chris White are very sharp with their timing, and are backed up by a powerful rhythm section of bassist Chris Benoist and drummer Elliot Cole. Frontman Matt Ryan also duly delivers, alternating seamlessly from the softer to the coarser vocal styles that categorise Desert Storm’s later material, which was particularly well displayed with the popular ‘Queen Reefer’ from 2015’s Omniscient. Desert Storm had a shorter set than they are used to in their hometown, but they made every second count. Bowing out with one of their heavier numbers ‘Enslaved in the Icy Tundra’ was perfect way to lead into the headline act.
Considering the popularity of the support acts in the local scene and how well they were received, Conjurer were potentially in danger of the crowd heading home early if their performance wasn’t up to scratch. That danger lasted all of about 5 seconds into their opener ‘Choke’. Attempting to describe Conjurer to someone who has never heard them before is a difficult endeavour, as they blend so many different elements together in their material; and clearly there were elements of the crowd who started a little unsure of what to make of the sludge-based extreme progressive metal that Conjurer unleashed on them. Most of the crowd however, either already knew what to expect or else were thoroughly won over; and from the first note to the last, the head-banging didn’t cease.
It’s not just that Conjurer are heavy. They bring an acute aggressiveness to their live show which goes even further than on record. But this brutal offensive stage presence (which includes the thrashing of their instruments and vocalist Dan Nightingale screaming for the whole crowd to hear without the need of a mic) is also coupled with the kind of technical prowess that can thoroughly deflate the egos of any aspiring musicians in the audience. Conjurer are scarily accurate, performing near-perfect renditions of all the songs on their set, which is made all the more impressive by the aforementioned aggression. Special credit goes to drummer Jan Krause, whose parts are ridiculously complicated in places, yet were meticulously performed throughout. Guitarist Brady Deeprose and bassist Conor Marshall also play their parts in delivering a performance of pure energy and brutality. The only downside to the show was that it ended too soon. But with their reputation growing by the day, there should be plenty more of Conjurer in the UK metal scene for a long time to come.
Check out the video for 'The Mire', the title track from Conjurer's last album, below:
Conjurer have a scheduled appearance at Complexity Fest, as shown below:
16/02 - Complexity Fest, NL (w/ Zeal & Ardor, The Ocean, Shining) This show comes before the band's first US tour, supporting Rivers of Nihil (1st March - 6th April).
Connect with Conjurer via Twitter: @ConjurerUK