Click to hear: “Surface Fire”
The Portland post-metal band Conifer is like a colossus striding across the aural landscape, smashing mountains of sound to bits. Like their self-titled, 2004 debut, Crown Fire consists of loud, long, alternately meditative and menacing compositions, but it adds some welcome brightness and more complexity to the mix.
The bright spots notwithstanding, this album will scare the shit out of you, especially the 13-plus-minute title track, which features guest vocalist Eugene Robinson of Oxbow. Want to keep pesky trick-or-treaters away this Halloween? Just throw this monster on at top volume and eat all the candy yourself.
The opener, “Surface Fire,” is a thrilling, majestic instrumental anthem, by turns brutal and languid (but mostly brutal). Guitarists Zachary Howard and Leif Sherman Curtis (of Moneycastasia, who replaced original member John Althoff in the long interim between Confier’s two albums) hurl riffs around to tremendous effect, while drummer Nate Nadeau furiously pounds away and bassist Sean Hadley keep the ground rumbling.
“Cruciform Empennage” (gotta love the titles here) slowly builds to become another strong track with its slew of cool time-signature changes. “Song for Krom” stomps through several sections over the course of its 15:26 length, including a psychedelic stretch in the middle sporting flute by guest Shannon Kyes Allen and keyboard noises by Nadeau.
But it’s the closer, “Crown Fire,” that’ll have you scrambling for another pair of underwear. While the band lays down a punishing, disjointed soundtrack, Robinson — a nationally published author and journalist and real-life, bare-knuckle ass-kicker — turns in a profoundly disturbing performance: howling, shrieking, muttering and whimpering an account he penned for this album about beating some bastard apparently to death, then discovering the guy’s still alive while frantically digging a makeshift grave.
Would it help you sleep at night if I told you it’s a true story? Probably not, but it probably is.
— Chris Busby
Conifer plays a CD release show, with opener Akimbo, on Mon., Oct. 20, at Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, at 9 p.m. Tix: $7 (18+). For more, visit myspace.com/conifer.