Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Conifer - Crown Fire 90/100.

Atmospheric sludge -- the new deathcore? No? What about the new depressive black metal? No, I didn’t think so either, but it is taking off in a small, and usually successful manner. This sub-genre is viewed in a disparaging light and most traditional sludge fans who grew up on the likes of Crowbar et al. claim that this style isn’t metal at all, that it is false, an abomination and deserves no praise because of such overwhelming facts . Personally, I find these view which utterly ludicrous and that to claim this genre doesn’t deserve credit in its own right because it is not metal is blasphemous. Not being metal doesn’t mean that it should not be tolerated, but certain sections of sludge goers are adamant that this depiction of a style that has been around since the dawn of the Neurosis creation -- who had a helping hand in pioneering the sound -- must be sent to a Gulag in the heart of the cold Siberian landscapes immediately for months of intensive training in order to be reinvented as a new genre, with a new manner of doing things and with bands who don’t adhere to the policy of atmospheric sludge. The termination of a genre, in today’s world so concerned with political correctness, is not about to happen. Freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom of wanting to do as one pleases within the eyes of the law is just a fleeting memory to those who claim that this style needs to be aborted.

Since when has elitism exhibited brute force when it comes to sludge? I thought that was a concept left to the more extreme genres of metal that acted like political left and right wings. Black can be left, death can be right and sludge can be a central political conception that does no harm to anyone. I assumed fans with open minds found this genre because of such a fact -- they have open minds! My irrational behaviour has been greeted with a chorus of boos as I lay down my feelings in a hostile opinionated manner, just like I always do. I suppose people with elitism mindsets, which I admit I used to have, will exist in every faction of metal, however small. Experimentation that applauds evolutions and inner revolutions within a genre will be found in every walk of musical life, even in the egomaniacal world of metal, so resistance is futile. The core will spread and eventually take you with it, or even leave you behind if you’re not prepared to listen to its ways. Although bands like Conifer might be tagged inappropriately as doom/sludge, though primarily sludge, the band are definitely what I would like to call atmospheric sludge mixed with a experimental force of post-whatever. Most people claim that the post-metal sound doesn’t exist, but why not? Ambiguities have long since plagued mankind and they will continue to do so in metal and otherwise. I happen to find these ambiguities interesting.

Though they cause a lot of heated arguments, its in these ambiguities that we find most bands begin to branch out like vines and slowly entangle themselves around new genres, whilst maintaining aspects of the traditional genres they played in. Conifer are one of these bands. They encase a style that is rarely seen amongst metal bands, though some will obviously (or is that obnoxiously) claim that this style isn’t metal in the slightest. For sake of argument, and given the fact that the band state that they incorporate themes of doom metal within their mostly instrumental music, I will call this a metal band. Conifer, like underground heroes such as Bossk, are pioneering a sound known as atmospheric sludge, which has a tendency to dip its little toe into waters unknown, such as doom and hardcore. Comparisons to Bossk on this scale are common, I’d imagine, but there are also comparisons to be made in terms of the instrumental depiction of the themes. Both bands have a similar style and a similar sound, which is exactly why I’ve come to love this sophomore effort, ‘Crown Fire’. I found the debut to be slightly mediocre and its production values didn’t help me garner any positivity in my opinion at all. However, moving on from that, the band, whom I could have sworn split-up after their debut, have progressed along the lines of evolution with this naturally gifted sound. Let the ambiance of songs like ‘Breathe Hold’ absorb you with its nature inspired themes.

The production isn’t as clean as one might hope, but you have to remember, atmospheric sludge or otherwise, this is still sludge. The production was always meant to have a muddy and murky sound that made it seem like the individual areas of the instrumentation were marathon runners, running in snow. Do you know how difficult that is! The fact that Conifer have kept a thick sound does not surprise me -- it pleases me. The bass works wonders within this style of production. Just listen to ‘Song For Krom’, for example. Its so thick and delicious, like a piece of rump steak, bleeding out on to the plate. Soft, tender, but most of all, succulent. Feel your tongue move across your lips with a sense of satisfaction. Feel the blood rushing into your lips as it prepares to taste this bloody meal. Feel yourself begin to salivate like a savage animal looking down and the prey it has just caught in the wilderness of the vast Portland forests. Conifer are that animal and we are their prey. Feeding off of us with ease, controlling the way we feel and how much pain they want to inflict on us in their atmospheric soundscapes. The guitars, the bass, it all flows as one like a stream tainted with the blood of our bleeding corpse. Hurt and writhing in pain, Conifer impose more emotional soundscapes upon the listener with tremendous use of baritone guitars and a bass section that screams for more sadistic torture to be inflicted upon us. I cannot wait for more!

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