Formed in 2008, the trio going by the names of Set, Lurk and Troll released a series of splits and demos under the Conjuror name that culminate in their full length debut Fight or Yield. Conjuror brings forth a diverse set of “crushing hymns for battle and ritual”. Forged with a core of black metal, the band surrounds it with influences from heavy metal, punk and folk music to deliver the imaginative and grand lyrics telling of werewolves, vampires, dungeons and black magic.
The majority of tracks on this album are refreshingly short and the band sticks to simple yet effective songstructures. The aforementioned punk influences are predominantly found in the drumming whereas a lot of the catchy guitar riffs boast the flavor and memorability of heavy metal paired with gripping melodies in the black metal sections. The band also shows that they’re capable of writing tracks of extended length with Discerning the Transmundane, To Become a Werewolf, Will to Power and Swallowed by Darkness.
The latter in particular makes a great shift around the halfway point. Starting off as a dark and tragic lamentation delivered by blastbeats and tremolo-picked guitars against passionate screams, the music shifts to accompany the change in tone of the lyrics. Tragic in sound nonetheless the instruments slow down to a mid-tempo as the screams make way for a clean vocal section before the song comes to a close.
As the title indicates To Become a Werewolf is a song about turning into a lycanthropian beast. Mostly on the faster side, this track features some subtle keyboards that an air of mysticism in support of the lyrics with vivid descriptions and a memorable chorus.
Discerning the Transmundane draws the listener in with a catchy start. Punk influenced drums accompany the tremolo melodies as vocalist Troll sings of descending into a glacial ruin leading to a place “so dark you need not eyes to see”, once again showcasing outstanding lyricism before the song comes to a close with an interplay of folky layers of clean vocals and screams.
The vocals are definitely the most impactful and outstading feature of Fight or Yield. Ranging from banshee shrieks over powerful shouts to primal growls and folky cleans, the band delivers an impressive amount of vocal variety, each with its own unique sound. The ear-piercingly high screams in particular are bone-chilling and wonderfully impactful. At times the vocal delivery even gets technical as torrents of words are quickly discharged on songs like Fortnight and Discerning the Transmundane.
As for the overall sound of the band, the mix is actually quite spacious. Reverbed and at times distant vocals ring out from behind distorted guitars, backed by a soft bass to support them effectively, accompanied by punchy drums. The production is far from lo-fi but rather perfectly fitting in terms of how rough and gritty it is.
While one might assert that the tracks on this album are not ambitious enough, the band actually made the right call. Whereas a lot of releases tend to overextend and overcomplicate, the compositions on Fight or Yield are refreshingly short and simple with the full album ending up close to the 34-minute mark.
Fight or Yield is a diverse bundle of songs, each with its own identity yet cohesive overall. The creative and impactful vocal delivery paired with the minimalist songwriting make this a strong and memorable debut.