Review Round-Up: Holy Roar Records (ft. Conjurer, Rolo Tomassi and Boss Keloid)

We get so much stuff through that we do struggle to make a dent in the massive pile of great new releases, so here’s a review round-up featuring a few genre-defying albums released through Holy Roar Records.

The label is riding high after putting out a slew of fantastic albums last year by the likes of Employed To Serve, OHHMS, Helpless and Wren, and that trend has continued in the early part of this year. I’ve picked three of the highlights so far, but they have plenty more hotly anticipated releases to come in the next few weeks – Møl, Svalbard – let alone the remaining half of 2018. I may feel compelled to do another Holy Roar round-up later in the year if this pattern continues…

Hugely different from each other but sharing a penchant for progressive sounds, I’ve had all three of these on heavy rotation recently and I really don’t know which of these three albums I prefer the most!

Conjurer – Mire

There may have been high expectations on Conjurer coming into this but it’s hard to believe that Mire is actually a debut album. Granted, their 2016 I EP was a definite sign of what they were capable of and they have been part of the live scene for a few years now, but the sheer talent and songwriting nuance on show on Mire are that of seasoned performers.

The backbone of the Midlands four-piece is comprised of guitarist/vocalist duo Dan Nightingale and Brady Deeprose and their pained, guttural screaming and immense riffing are excellently enhanced by a rhythm section made up of the thunderous drumming of Jan Krause and recent new recruit Conor Marshall on bass.

Caring not for genre boundaries, Conjurer viciously smash together hardcore, doom, death, grind, sludge, prog, black and post-metal in a way that is natural and free-flowing. Nothing on Mire is overused and everything fits: there are clean, melodic vocals sparingly utilised on tracks such as the epic “Thankless”, the Gojira style neck-slide midway through “Choke” appears once only, and “Retch” features the most dangerous breakdown this side of Code Orange. There are too many other examples of seemingly incidental yet highly effective details such as these to mention, and more and more are unlocked with each listen of this intelligently composed, densely layered album.

Conjurer’s clever use of melancholic melodies and softer, subtle sections within songs further accentuates the rest of this visceral and eye-wateringly massive album. Seriously, Mire is almost cripplingly heavy (in two senses – musically and thematically) and through progressive song structures, Conjurer effortlessly switch from a blast-beat-driven hardcore speed and swagger to slowly toiling in a slough of tenebrous doom-laden riffs.

Bound to be recognised as the best, certainly the most accomplished, metal debut of the year, Mire has recently gained Conjurer a fan in Matt Heafy of Trivium, and listening to this album it’s easy to understand why. Do not sleep on this!

For fans of: Employed To Serve, Gojira, Yob

Mire is out now

Conjurer: facebook | twitter | bandcamp

Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It

The siblings Spence have been at this for over twelve years now, and although all of their albums have an overarching “Rolo Tomassi sound” to them, they were each very distinct from the last and definitely carried a few surprises. Album number five, Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It is the uplifting follow-up to 2015’s dark, wistful Grievances, marks another progression in Rolo Tomassi’s sound and is their most complete work yet.

Ambient opener “Towards Dawn” acts as a fantastic prelude (an interesting track in its own right, rather than a simple, throwaway intro) and segues deliciously into the luscious post-rock of “Aftermath”. Ending in a huge sing-along crescendo, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Rolo Tomassi were deliberately lulling new listeners into a false sense of security until they then unleash “Rituals”, a track which finds the quintet at their most fierce. Embracing blackened hardcore and, indeed, doom elements, “Rituals” is a brief and potent assault that has huge synths, intense riffs and vicious growls from Eva Spence. Ranging from serene, high pitched tones to throat-shredding rasps and back again, Eva Spence’s vocal performance on Time Will Die… is flawless, most notably on “A Flood Of Light”.

Rolo Tomassi have ditched the glitchy, Nintendo-core synth tones from their early days, James Spence’s synth work is now present as an atmospheric layer, similar to Cult Of Luna’s synths, sitting in harmony with Chris Cayford’s guitar playing. Used to emphasize particular moments such as the break on the magnificent “The Hollow Hour”, syncopated rhythms of “Balancing The Dark” and the huge, slowly building crescendo of album highlight “A Flood Of Light”.

The expansive Time Will Die… flows splendidly from start to finish and closes with two songs, “Contretemps” and “Risen”, that are respectively an exceptional example of epic, piano-driven post-rock (akin to Maybeshewill or Explosions In The Sky) and a dreamy shoegaze finale. If I was to really nitpick, penultimate song “Contretemps” has a vocal part near the end that is a touch too close to Radiohead’s “Creep” but hey, that’s a minor quibble of an outstanding track.

Going from strength to strength with each album cycle, Rolo Tomassi have really developed over the past decade and Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It, a beautiful, triumphant and innovative mix of post-rock, hardcore and dream-pop, is undoubtedly their best work yet.

For fans of: Converge, Between The Buried And Me, Deftones

Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It is out now

Rolo Tomassi: facebook | twitter | bandcamp

Boss Keloid – Melted On The Inch

Holy Roar newbies Boss Keloid’s third album Melted On The Inch is a unique, enigmatic prog delight.  The artwork gives nothing away, the song titles are weird and there are moments like the opening of “Lokannok” that could be from a Funkadelic album. Open your mind and the grooving riffs will follow. Melted On The Inch is also less overtly obsessed with weed than Herb Your Enthusiasm, but maybe no less influenced by it, and is six tracks of buoyant, mind-bending metallic prog.

For those familiar with the band, Melted On The Inch has a crisper, more dynamic feel than their previous two albums, without losing the fun, heavy appeal of those releases. I’m thankful that Melted On The Inch isn’t completely stripped of the band’s sludge and doom influences – lead single and album opener “Chromosiam” most resembles the Boss Keloid of Herb Your Enthusiasm – and that soaring riffs, driving bass and solid drums are frequently utilised as part of the complex sonic aesthetic.

Alex Hurst’s powerful, roaring vocal performance is, as always, exceptional and he covers an even bigger range of styles and techniques than on Herb Your Enthusiasm. He has also now taken up second guitar duties which allows the integration of Matthew Milne on keys. It’s this expansion in the sound that helps to flesh out the more progressive elements of Melted On The Inch – the organ on “Peykruve” is very Opethian – adding more harmonies and atmosphere.

Much like Rolo Tomassi, on Melted On The Inch Boss Keloid have managed to overhaul and develop their sound without losing what would have drawn listeners to them previously, creating a unique yet unpretentious and complicated yet accessible prog behemoth that is a joy to delve into.

For fans of: King Crimson, Clutch, Mastodon

Melted On The Inch is out on April 27th

Boss Keloid: facebook | twitter | bandcamp

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