Curse These Metal Hands represents a first time collaboration between two trailblazers from the UK’s nascent doom scene; Manchester’s sometime three piece Pijn and Rugby’s Conjurer. This isn’t so much a typical split EP, instead taking members of both bands and melding them together to create quite the dream team. I jumped at the chance to review this record, having heard good things of Pijn, becoming a staple at the coolest festivals such as Arctangent, Roadburn and MetalDays, whilst Conjurer blew my mind with their debut album ‘Mire’ (one of most impressive debuts I’ve heard and one of the best albums of the last few years). They also have some spectacular live shows under their bullet belts; in particular they came dangerously close to pulling the rug from under Will Haven at the London 229 Club in June 2019.
If you were a gambling man you’d expect the splicing of Conjurer’s progressive, all but the kitchen sink, doomy sludge metal crossed with Pijn’s expansive gloomy post everything sound, (their Dutch moniker translating to the word ‘pain’) to make for a potentially dark, dense and miserable listen. BUT….you (and I) couldn’t be more wrong. Curse These Metal Hands is a fairly radical departure, throwing in various influences rarely seen when the bands are their usual disembodied selves. I wasn’t expecting the EP to be such a relaxed and laid back affair, with the band themselves describing the songs as being crafted to “induce joy”. The opener ‘High Spirits’ for instance introduces itself rolling along on what feels like a folky almost country groove, it’s understated and lulls you in before turning on you. Vocals and guitars crash in giving a little more of what was expected, rasping vocals rage away, at times sounding at odds with the uplifting soaring melodies, bringing to mind UK soundscape artists Bossk with the way they play with volume and dynamics.
The EP still features a high riff count and when it gets heavy, it’s clinical and precise; such as ‘The Pall’ with its repetitive staccato riffing that lodges itself in your head and can’t be shaken out, before ending with some glorious Baroness flavoured guitars. However, they also know when to rein it in. The EP signs off with the epic ‘Sunday’ which manages to pack in so much during its ten minute plus running time. The heavy instances countered by a joyous moment of quiet reflection halfway through this song could sum up your typical Sunday; slow start, gets heavier (hangover setting in), mellows out to possibly signify hair of the dog beers in the sun, before an elongated moment of quiet contemplation reflecting on the weekend’s activities, followed by a suitably prog-infused ending featuring three harmonious guitars.
The only negative of this EP (like all good EPs) is that it’s too short, even if three of the four tracks clock in at over eight minutes. ‘Endeavour’, the heaviest Conjurer influenced offering on here, barely scratches the surface coming to an abrupt end, leaving the listener begging for more. Curse These Metal Hands is conversely, both immediate and a grower, surprising and refreshing. It’s heavy when it needs to be, but these moments are used sparingly, allowing the songs to steep, relax and breathe. Whether this merely represents an interesting one-off take away meal or the Hors d’oeuvres as part of an 8 course taster menu at The Fat Duck remains to be seen (let’s hope it’s the latter). It’s impressive when bands take a risk and travel down a different path and Curse These Metal Hands gives both bands the chance to spread their wings. Whatever they choose to do next, as a collective or otherwise, British heavy music is in safe (cursed metal) hands.
(8.5/10 James Jackson)