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CONJURER's CONOR MARSHALL Talks Páthos, U.K. Metal Underground & Discovering METALLICA, AVENGED SEVENFOLD

Plus getting back on the road after the initial COVID wave.

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Rising British metal heavyweights Conjurer were faced with an unenviable choice at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit one that was entirely out of their hands. Halt the massive momentum built through their debut album Mire and growing reputation as one of the UK's most ferocious touring acts (with supporting runs with Rivers of Nihil, Conan, Voivod, and Revocation under their belts), and hunker down to work on their sophomore record. But life is all about silver-linings.

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The end-result of toil and personal and professional growth is Páthos, an unrelentingly vicious genre-hybrid that sees the cohort of Brady Deeprose, Dan Nightingale, Conor Marshall and Jan Krause at their most diverse, and certainly heaviest stage of their careers.

Marshall sat down with Metal Injection for a deep dive into the new record, which saw the Brits collaborate with heavyweight craftsman Will Putney, his thoughts on U.K.'s metal underground, the bands that broke him into heavy metal and much more!

It's been a couple of years since Mire and I'm sure it would have been difficult to halt that momentum and success of the tours. You guys were really touring the fuck out of that record. But we come to the pandemic and you're kind of forced into a situation where the gigs have ceased, and now it's time to work on album number two. 

Pretty much, yeah. Like that was never the plan. When we put Mire out we thought, okay, we'll tour it for maybe a year or two, but then when we have the next one written back in the studio and kind of go on. But Mire got such a crazy reception and everyone seemed to love it so much, which was obviously very nice, but was never what we expected.

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Like you said, that meant we got all these amazing tour offers and festivals. We were just going and going and going. So yeah, it literally took a pandemic to get us to stop because otherwise, we don't write on the road or anything like that. So we kind of needed to be legally told not to leave the house for us to be able to do an album essentially, which is kind of why it took so long. But yeah, it is what it is, I guess. Everything happens for a reason and all that sort of stuff, right?

Do you feel like your influences have changed somewhat from Mire to now, whether you're listening to bands like Revocation or Sumac, Mastodon or Gojira or Yob, or even dark post-metal stuff? Have you felt that as you guys have evolved as heavy music fans, elements have crept in here or there to what would become Páthos?

Yeah, that's pretty much exactly what it's like. When we were writing Mire, like when the band started, it was very much bands like Gojira, Mastodon, The Black Dahlia Murder, which in terms of like the general metal scene is stuff that's still not entry level bands, but it's more typical bands that if someone listens to metal then they're more likely to be into those bands. And yeah, you mentioned Sumac and I know Sumac are a huge one for Dan, like basically his favorite band. And so it's very much like in the four years that it's been since we put Mire out, you're absolutely right, we essentially have just gone deeper down the rabbit hole in like all the areas.

We found bands that we enjoy. And it's also just kind of how we developed as people as well. Like it's kind of a culmination of all of that. But yeah, you're right. We're absolutely listening to different and a wider range of music now, but we've also got four years of experience behind us that's going to, I'm sure, creep its way in in ways we probably don't even realize yet. But yeah, it's definitely an evolution on all fronts, I would say.

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It's not a lean record by any means, clocking in over 50 minutes. And it's really a beast in terms of genre hybrids. There's a bit of everything, from ethereal and elemental elements, yet you're kicking the listener in the teeth right away with "It Dwells." It's a heavy fucking song, which you merge with stuff heavier in tone or a little bit more ambient. You guys are throwing a ton of stuff at the wall and it's all sticking.

Yeah, and it's not the plan in terms of like, we don't sit down and be like 'okay, how many different genres can we get into a song or anything like that.' Other than obviously we know we write metal music, we don't sit and write in terms of genre. We're not like oh we need a black metal bit or anything like that. But the point is, like we said before, we have all these different influences and stuff that we enjoy listening to and playing.

So when we write an album always different things just happen to come out. Like it's what we're interested in, it's what we want to do. And then the tricky bit is kind of making all of that work together seamlessly. And that's what we spend a lot of the time arguing about essentially, going right in on the tiniest little detail so that if a song does happen to have influences from five different genres, it's not meant to sound like that. Sure, you could probably pick them out, but it's still meant to sound like one cohesive Conjurer song, essentially.

You guys have shared that for this record it's much more of a unified front in terms of having songs that mesh together a little more than Mire. In the earlier days you'd have 10 or 12 songs and these were the songs for the record, whereas now it's what are the best songs you can put into an album to make it a cohesive record from song to song.

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Yeah, kind of. I think it's just as well with Mire, and I guess this is obviously the case for most bands' first albums is like those are literally the songs you have. Those are the songs you spend three or four years writing as you build up to that first album point. And so there might be some that sound slightly different and they might not all fit together. Whereas all of this, apart from kind of one song which we had the rough skeleton of beforehand, all of this was written essentially together. And so it makes more sense that they're going to fit together as well.

It just kind of goes back to what I said before, even more than like section to section within songs, the idea of songs to songs then on an album, how do they fit together and how do they flow, and how does this all work as a cohesive piece of art? Again, we don't sit down and go every song has to flow. It doesn't have to be a System of a Down album where literally one song stops and the next one starts. There are a couple of like little second gaps between songs, but the idea is that it flows as a whole album where if you want to listen to it broken up you absolutely can. But in general the idea is you put it on at the start and then you listen to it. There's different stuff that happens in the middle, but it all kind of flows and works together.

You had the opportunity to work with some pretty impressive folks in the business on this album in Greg Chandler and Will Putney, right?

[Will is] the fucking guy. He was meant to do all of it. The idea initially when we were kind of getting ready and booking the studio time was it was meant to be fully produced, mixed and mastered by Will Putney. And we were just figuring out the last details of, okay, are we going to fly over to him and record it in the States? Are we going to get him over and we'll rent somewhere over here? Figuring all that out, costing and all that sort of stuff. And then yeah, the pandemic hit. So we just kind of have to go now, fuck. So that's kind of where Greg came in because it was like okay, well, we need to get this done.

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We weren't pushed by the label in a sense of like we need your album, where is it? You need to get it recorded! But it was just like we want to get it out. Like we've written it, now we want to record it. We've set this time aside for it in terms of booking time off work and all of that. And so luckily we were able to pivot and get Greg involved and we recorded drums and bass with him, ended up recording guitars and stuff, basically everything else ourselves at our practice space just using our own gear. We got our live sound guy at the time to come in because he knew obviously about micing us up and how we wanted to sound.

And then we just had to give it to Will just for the mixing and mastering, unfortunately, rather than the full production job. But even then we knew because as I say he's a beast, he's the guy. Like that's why we went with him because we talked about other producers, but we just came back to even though the stuff he'd typically done up to that point wasn't our genre or sub-genre, so to speak. Like, the way those albums sounded is how we wanted to have more of us going forward sounding. And so he crushed it and did a great job.

Switching to the British metal scene for a minute, obviously there's so many different tiers … With the underground scene, there's so many great bands now that are kind of bubbling under the surface and Conjurer, a few years back, would have been considered one of the heads of the British Underground and really emerging from that. What was your take or feelings on what was happening in Britain with extreme metal?

We were very lucky in that we started and were playing our first shows in a scene that was absolutely, I say, kind of bubbling up and something was really starting to happen. So for the last five years, definitely, maybe even longer, the UK has really seen a load of strong bands coming through because yeah, you're right definitely there have been like the odd sub-genre here or the other that always had a fairly consistent scene, but in general like on mass Britain had been a little bit, not awful. Like there's always good bands.

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But yeah, in terms of having a whole scene of lots of bands coming through, it was kind of barren and scarce for a little bit and it was more like what international bands were coming over. You wouldn't be so excited to see a UK band. But no, we got very lucky that we were coming up, because I don't want to be like, oh yeah we were part of that, we led the scene or anything like that. We were just very fortunate to be around at the same time, essentially, and just starting up. But what was good as well and what we were talking about earlier was the fact that we have different genres and stuff, it meant that we could dip into all of those scenes.

So like we started by playing a lot of more stoner and doom shows, but then we could go and do a hardcore show and sure, we might still stick out a little bit, but there's enough of that there and our live show definitely suits itself more to like a hardcore thing and cool, we could go check that out. And there's a great scene over there now as well. It's like okay, we could play  a death metal show and still fit in enough. So we got to kind of benefit from all of these different scenes. So rather than just be like the UK has a great stoner doom scene that we were a part of, we were very lucky that we got to kind of come up with the metal scene in general. Obviously there's different tiers to that, but at the moment it's hopefully still in a strong place.

We're only just starting to figure out now how it works after the pandemic and kind of seeing what bands have made it out the other side, if that makes sense. Going into it we were super strong. And so it looks like hopefully everyone's starting to get out there again, but we probably won't know for another couple of years whether there's a rebuild that needs to be done or anything like that.

Now that you're building that momentum back up again, I'd imagine you guys have been chomping at the bit to get back out there and recapture that energy you had touring pre-pandemic?

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Yeah, that's pretty much it. Obviously, we love writing songs in the studio, but we've always been more of a live band. Like that's obviously what you spend the time doing if you're putting out an album, even if it's every two years or so, like there's still two years of gigs and stuff. So that's definitely what we're trying to build more towards. And we were very fortunate that we managed to do some of the initial stuff that opened in the UK. So we got to do the Download pilot, which was like the first kind of big open air event in the whole country that got trialed and we were lucky to be able to do that and it's just kind of been going from there, really.

The plan is after that headline tour, that's kind of us done for this year. So then next year we kind of want to do it all over. We want to get over to the States and Canada again. We want to hit places that we have never been before like Australia and Japan and Latin America. So yeah, once the album is finally out in a couple of weeks, it's going to be great. We hope everyone enjoys it and stuff, but from there we just want to get back playing shows really.

For you personally, was there kind of a gateway band or a seminal album that really got you addicted to heavier music?

Yeah, kind of. I remember two things happened kind of at the same sort of time. So one of them was Metallica. I've got an older brother who's like three years older than me and he started getting into heavier stuff. And so it was Metallica, Megadeth and all that sort of stuff. And so he would be playing it way too loud through his bedroom walls. And for the most part I wasn't into it, but I think that was more because I was annoyed he was being loud [laughs]. It didn't really matter what the music was. But then by this point I'd kind of start playing guitar already and so had that interest. He was playing "Master of Puppets", and when it got to like the middle clean bit [mimics the sound], that was the first time I had heard that and like guitar harmonies and I was like wait a minute, that's the sickest thing in the world!

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So Metallica was what piqued my interest, and then when I would go and flick to the rock and metal TV channels, the kind of first band that I really fell in love with was Avenged Sevenfold. And this was just as they were bringing out the self-titled album. This is like around 2006, 2007. And so I remember listening to that, but then also picking up City of Evil at the same time. So yeah, between Master of Puppets and those two albums, that kind of hooked me in like this is what metal is with Metallica. But then this was like the cool new band. And I thought they looked really cool and I liked their songs and all that sort of stuff. So yeah, those were kind of my entry points for it.

Páthos is set for release on July 1 via Nuclear Blast Records. Pre-orders are available now and can be purchased here. You can also catch the band at one of the below dates.

10/21– Nijmegen, NL – Soulcrusher Fest
10/22– Mainz, DE – Kulturclub Schon Schön
10/23– Bochum, DE – Die Trompete
10/24– Leipzig, DE – Bandhaus
10/26– Lucerne, SU – Sedel
10/27– Lyon, FR – Le Farmer
10/28– Lille, FR – Brat Cave
10/29– Hasselt, BE – Samhain Fest
10/31– Bristol, UK – The Exchange
11/1– Manchester, UK – Rebellion
11/2– Glasgow, UK – Cathouse
11/3– Leeds, UK – Key Club
11/4– London, UK – The Dome

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