The more time that goes into considering what Curse These Metal Hands actually is, the less sense it seems to make. Here, we have a team-up between Pijn and Conjurer, two bands responsible for some of the most crushing, inventive and downbeat heavy albums of the last year, coming out with an EP whose title derives from a Peep Show reference, and whose primary method of promotion has been through memes highlighting how much they sound like Baroness. It would appear as though the connective tissue between each element isn’t quite there, though it’s hard to really complain overall. Given the surliness and self-seriousness that metal has developed a reputation for, a project like this feels somewhat refreshing in how self-aware it is, and when its primary focus is one of finding positivity and joy wherever it may be, Curse These Metal Hands on paper is the sort of palette-cleansing metal side-project that’s an exceptionally rare find.
In practice, that might be something of an exaggeration, but when comparing Curse These Metal Hands to the works of Pijn or Conjurer in their day jobs – or indeed, the majority of other progressive- and sludge-metal bands – it’s easy to see how something like this could stand out, if only by a marginal degree. There’s definitely a sense of light and anthemia that almost feels akin to the sprawling, brightly coloured prog of the genre’s early days, but given a boost in heft thanks to a modern production job and the metallic edge that lands with a lot more punch. And really, when factoring in what that can do, Curse These Metal Hands does feel bigger and more distinct for it; the execution (and honestly, the concept as a whole) might mark it down as definitively something to go on the side, this is not disposable or worth ignoring by any means.
It’s pretty easy to pinpoint how this all works, as well; the sweeping, triumphant riffs of High Spirits and Sunday are played with a distinctly classic streak to them, and when meshing with a heavier guitar tone and the guttural, multi-layered vocals, they can hit their nine- and ten-minute runtimes without panting for breath by the end. Of the four tracks here, these are easily the two standouts when it comes to how Curse These Metal Hands works the best, and how the projected sense of joy, even if only present in undertones, is easier to glean thanks to generally brighter and more uplifting tones. Conversely, there’s Endeavour which, at less than two-and-a-half minutes is harmless enough, but doesn’t necessarily deviate from the prog-metal playbook that it actively feels like Pijn and Conjurer are trying to distance themselves away from, and feels rather tacked-on as an inclusion overall. As for The Pall, its appeal is a lot more subtle as it weaves between acts of varying tempos and sizes, but that key tone is still present, especially towards the end, and if there’s a moment that lays down the notion that this is still progressive music, it’s probably this one.
That said, it’s not like there’s anything particularly streamlined about this release, not when nine minutes seems to be the prime standard set for how Pijn and Conjurer want to segment their displays of positivity. But even if the self-indulgence absolutely oozes from almost every pore (fully bringing those classic prog vibes through there), it’s not like they’ve not earned it given the calibre of musicianship on offer. The triple guitar foundation from Dan Nightingale, Brady Deeprose and Joe Clayton is the basis of their monolithic sound that has the humidity in its tone that’s immediately preferable to yet another clinical tech-metal job, and with barely a foot put wrong in terms of sheer technicality across the entire EP, what could easily have been dismissed as a vanity project does have a good amount to offer.
Comparing it to both Pijn and Conjurer’s individual works though, it’s easy to see how Curse These Metal Hands could lag behind; it’s trying to pare down a sound that’s more suited for a full album (even if its attempts do a whole lot right), and doesn’t have quite the amount of dexterity or envelope-pushing nous as either of its predecessors. But even so, Curse These Metal Hands feels like an experiment that unquestionably pays off, if only because it’s the necessary release from a scene that can lack levity and classically-styled bravado like this. Whether it’ll go any further remains to be seen, but a full album of this would definitely be welcome, if only to give these two already brilliant bands the room to stretch their legs and exercise that brilliance even more.
For fans of: Pink Floyd, Baroness, Mastodon
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Curse These Metal Hands’ by Pijn & Conjurer is released on 16th August on Holy Roar Records.