Conifer - Crown Fire - 2LP/CD
Though Conifer has received quite a bit of critical praise, they've somehow managed to live off the grid for the past six years. With Crown Fire, Conifer is finally getting the exposure they deserve. Mixing post-rock, kraut-rock, metal and pscychedlia, they have created this relentlessly driving and hypnotic masterpiece. Crown Fire's only vocals are from Oxbow's Eugene Robinson - fronting the albums final 13 minute epic. LP version limited to 500 copies with 200 on color vinyl.
Conifer has been writing primarily instrumental music with a lawless take on the styles from which they've taken cue. New content is found by way of augmenting brutality and suspense with time. Conifer seems to reckon with the notions of bands like Enemymine, Mogwai, or Grails while taking an approach toward their music that's entirely meditative (as opposed to premeditated). Minimal, ethereal passages are narcotically lengthened and crescendos of distortion are sustained well beyond the boundaries adhered to by many of their peers. "Heavy" by way of being beat/repetition heavy in not only a Shellac/Helmet sense but in a way that is practically reminiscent of electronic discipline. Crushing riffs amidst the most ethereal, minimal moments.
Six years in, Conifer has emerged from their mind forest into the clearing that is the future and past. Band members have come and gone and come again. Crown Fire is the latest battle that Conifer has fought in the war of obtuse movement. Welcoming dense riffage washes over the listener for the first half of the record, referencing pan-Asian themes and musical manifest destiny. The bombast that is their live show comes through loud and clear, intertwined with moments of delicate reflection. Without warning it all goes wrong, the mainframe explodes, the ships crash, the tide of despair and denial rises never to recede.
Hailing from the capital of the heavy state of Maine, Conifer has an extremely close relationship with fellow travellers Ocean. These two groups have shared a lot over the years including members, tour transportation, and practice spaces. Members of the two groups grew up together in rural coastal towns. Though different in sound they're quite kindred in spirit, and obviously Conifer is an essential for anyone who loved Ocean's, Here Where Nothing Grows.
"If we had to pick a favorite, out of all the post rock/math rock/post metal hordes, a sound we do admittedly dig a whole lot, and one we can’t seem to get enough of, Maine’s mighty Conifer would be right there at the top. Which is saying something, as up until this brand new full length, we’d only heard from them twice, their debut, and a split with Ocean. As compared to some of the other bands who have released 2, 3, 4 maybe more records in the same amount of time. The first Conifer disc was fresh when it came out, taking classic math rock and beefing it up with huge swells of Neurosis crush, but the thing with Conifer is that they never completely buried that post rock vibe, even at their most metallic, when they were slipping into full on doom territory, they hung on to those loping rhythms, those fractured melodies, and figured out a way to infuse those elements into the roiling heaviness. On the debut we were hearing Slint and Bastro and Seam as much and as often as Isis or Neurosis, probably even more so.
"In that way, the sound of Conifer hasn’t changed all that much, their sound is still rooted heavily in mathrock, the metal elements more adorning the postrock instead of the other way around. In fact more than ever, they sound like a nineties mathrock band supercharged and transported to the oughts. Even at their heaviest, they don’t get HEAVY, as in metal heavy, they get louder, and more dynamic, more intense, the sound gets fuller and more expansive. And this time around the band we can’t help but hear all over this record is Polvo. The guitar parts are all woozy and warbly and angular and sort of seasick, the opening track is the perfect example, it almost sounds like some metal band covering the opening track from Polvo’s Cor Crane Secret, with its multiple parts, its liquid arrangements, the clean guitars, layered and indeed woozy, the drum part and the arrangements, loping and mathy and not a little bit groovy. We hate to go on and on about mathrock and Polvo, cuz it could all be a big ol' coincidence, but we doubt it. Every song on Crown Fire is mathy and melodic, sometimes locking into repeating figures for just a tad longer than would be comfortable for most bands, opening up and drifting through wide open spaces, all glimmering harmonics and shuffling rhythms, backwards guitars floating in a sea of muted soft drones, tripped out almost Pink Floyd action here and there, complete with space-y synths and fluttery flutes. 'Into The Gauntlet' almost sounds like a heavier Codeine, a bit doomy, with a strange lurching arrangement beneath glistening sparkling chimes, and flurries of shuffling snare drum and floor tom. Hard to say what it is exactly, as it should be with music, but regardless, this is definitely a new high for a genre that becomes more and more overpopulated every day. Whenever we find ourselves listening to one of these new post rock / metal hybrids, as much as we love metal, and we do, we find ourselves longing way more for the intricacies and arrangements and dynamics of the post rock side of the equation, it’s too easy to just turn it up and let downtuned guitars chug, and Conifer prove that you can make a super heavy, super catchy, epic record, without even bothering with faux metal chug, which is something else for sure.
"If that weren’t enough, the record closes with the 13 minute title track, featuring Eugene from Oxbow on guest vocals (normally Conifer are instrumental). The result is pretty excellent, and finds the band, doing their best Oxbow, a sort of abstract bluesy groove, that over the course of the song gets a little bit mathier and more complex, while Eugene sing-talks, howls, mewls, wails, growls, shrieks, moans, The track is super spare until about halfway through where it dials up the metal, offering up being churning chords and pounding drummage to support Eugene’s increasingly unhinged and manic vocals, the song building to a furious climax, before drifting out in a haze of whispered mutterings and fractured electronics. It’s a pretty awesome track for sure, but for us, it somehow works better when taken almost as a separate record. The first 6 tracks are so perfect together, a brilliant 38 minute post-math-metallic-rock suite, which just so happens to come with an equally brilliant bonus single song, 13 minute ep, featuring Conifer backing up Oxbow’s Eugene Robinson. However you slice it, WAY recommended!" ~ Aquarius Records