Portland, Maine’s Conifer have managed to avoid critical attention since their formation, but Crown Fire is such an artful blend of genres and moods that it’s hard not to notice. Flavors from krautrock, jazz, psychedelia, and metal are all present, and they meld into a hypnotic and powerful mix that evokes bands like My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain, but with a more abrasive edge.
There are vocals on one track, but most of the album is instrumental, and for an independent release it’s very well recorded. Clean and heavy, the album’s drums and bass shine through these compositions very well. Solos are imaginative and understated, with driving time signatures that are unusual, but never confusing. The songs work best when it focuses on noise— occasionally, there are other instruments, like cello or flute, that don’t sound quite right in the mix. Their voice is unique and interesting enough without the alternative instrumentation, which sounds hackneyed and seems somewhat like a deliberate plea for acceptance.
Conifer is a remarkably talented group of musicians who play perfectly with each other. Although not always on target, the songs are tight, interesting, and varied. Even if they’re not all stellar cuts, I give them significant credit for always trying. It’s limited in its appeal, since it’s so different and, occasionally, hard to crack into. If you like metal, though, this is a seriously warped and heavy album that may give you new insight and appreciation for the integrity of musicianship.