The press release accompanying Conjuring the Damned is littered with more superlatives than a newspaper story about rugby league superstar Jarryd Hayne. “Juggernaut”, “enfilade assault”, “bone-crushing” and “brutal” are among them. While most are at not without some element of truth, this reviewer would add a few more descriptors to the PR gushing of the Californian crew’s debut full-length. “Highly predictable”, “nondescript” and “utterly forgettable” would be appropriate additions.
The youthful quintet clearly know their modern death metal – latter day Cannibal Corpse, The Black Dahlia Murder, Whitechapel and more are all obvious touchstones, which they filter through to their metalcore orientations. The band are deft enough to keep the arrangements blunt and to the point (minus the superfluous intro and interlude track), but even in its short running time much of the record storms by in a blur of blast-beats, slamming grooves and the occasional guitar solo, beatdown and tempo shift. The band is also still relatively young, can play their instruments and are relentless. ButConjuring the Damned is so blatantly derivative and lacking in ambition that it’s borderline offensive. ‘Monstrosity’ exudes crushing riffs, incensed deathcore vocals and a fleck of ambience, but completely lacks new ideas or even a fresh feel. ‘Black Mass’ is probably the pick of a mediocre at best bunch, while ‘Of The Nile’ hints at their understanding of the concept of melody, but lacks the memorable parts or distinctiveness.
What several spins of Conjuring the Damned also illustrate is how many other acts mining similar musical fields do it infinitely more convincingly – our own Psycroptic, Switchblade and The Red Shore are three which spring to mind. Also included at the end are a few tracks from the band’s 2008 self-titled demo, all of which are third-rate The Black Dahlia Murder carbon copies and whose only significant purpose appears to be padding the record out to a meagre 35 minutes. Great for completists I suppose, but in all honesty, how many Halo Of Gunfire completists are there likely to be?