Originally formed as a one off commission for ArcTanGent 2018, a unison founded by a shared love of contemporary heavy music and Buckfast, the collaborative effort from Pijn and Conjurer has quickly become the album of the year contender for many a lover of riffs. We recently got in touch with Dan Nightingale (Conjurer, guitars, vocals) who broke down the record track by track, detailing the background, stories and inspirations behind each track on the record. These are the stories behind Curse These Metal Hands.
This song started off as just a little ditty I'd written on an acoustic guitar about 5 or 6 years ago. I had the intro lying around for ages but didn't know what to do with it cos it didn't really suit any of the bands I was playing in. Eventually when it was on the cards that us and Pijn were gonna work together, I figured I may as well show it to the guys and see if anyone was interested in it, and luckily everyone was on board! It's got a kind of folky jig to it and it sounds like something that'd be playing somewhere in the Shire. Jan Krause played a big part in arranging it and adapting it into a heavy song, but when he stepped back from the collaboration we messed about with it some more and added the whole Thin Lizzy bit around 3/4s in. It's the best.
Lyrically, we just went with the mood of the song; it's super uplifiting and fun to play, so the words we came up with took on a much more positive approach compared to our day-job bands, but they remained just as cathartic. They just talk about how joy is a feeling that can pass you by sometimes, especially if you're a worrisome person. Throwing yourself into new things, or any situation that might spike your anxiety - even if you want to join in - can be really overwhelming. But when you get the encouragement from your friends and peers (yourself, even) and you - to quote Marshall Mathers - lose yourself in the moment, it's the greatest feeling. Time slows a bit and you sometimes catch yourself thinking "This is amazing" and that's something I think we all felt in some way when the song and the whole project came together. There are lots of references to the Sun, the weather, comparing those things with mental states and powering through the bad and the good, and once the lyrics for this song were down, they very much defined what this record was going to be about.
This one was written right after finishing up High Spirits, so after all that elation and happiness, we kinda went a bit moodier. Joe came in with the choppy intro riff which we built on and built on, layering guitars, raising and lowering the dynamics, throwing time signatures back and forth (this was all eventually nicknamed "the ArcTanGent section for those reasons) until it all kinda combusts. Once that whole section pays off we get to this Godspeed-y section with lots of spooky guitars and noises and it reminds me of opening credits of Terminator 2 but without the cars on fire... Follow that up with a load of triumphant riffing, tribal drums, and Torche worship and you've basically got a post-metal masterpiece.
Lyrically, again, it follows in the footsteps of the song's tone, which is a little less sunkissed and a little more charred and desolate. Like the opening credits of Terminator 2. Joe wrote all the lyrics to this one and I think they're fantastic, they come in just at the right time and give the song what I see as a narrative of turmoil. The first 1/3rd of the song feels like an ignition, something sparking and getting wildly out of control, causing chaos. The next 1/3rd feels like the quiet, the fallout, the dust settling. By the time the final 1/3rd begins, it feels like the sudden realisation of everything that's occurred, the vocals signifying this person's cognizance and reckoning. and the last riff being a moment of rejoice, coming out of the other side, "unworried to risk my weary heart and remain sincere".
This song feels like a celebration, a party song. It's short, it's sweet, it doesn't mince its words, it punches you in the face, gives you a hug, and says "Let's get it". Originally this song was the outro to The Pall but we felt it worked better as a song all on its own. Joe came in with it virtually complete, bar the stop/start riff towards the end, and we barely spent any time fine-tuning it because it just felt like a burst of energy, no need to tamper with it, let it do its thing. And again he smashed it out of the park with the lyrics, they're absolutely beautiful but still work with the brutish nature of the song; elegant but to the point. Much like Curtis Mayfield's track "Keep On Keepin' On", lovingly covered by Travie McCoy and Brendan Urie, they say to defy all obstacles, and even when things are proper rubs, persevere, endure, keep going. I want to shout out the vocal trade-off between Joe and Brady as well; the delivery, the words, the phrasing are all just perfect. "Drink the languid light of dawn, together. And when nights will grow forlorn, remember."
Going from a short snotty rager, this one ended up being the exact opposite of what came before, as per. It might be worth mentioning now that all the songs were written in the order of the tracklisting, so The Pall was a result of High Spirits, Endeavour was a result of The Pall, etc; it's got a nice flow to it. Looking back, there's quite a lot of post-hardcore influence in this song; some Midwest emo guitar lines in there, bouncy two-step moments, and even a nod to Paramore's "Hallelujah" (please don't sue). It's the first song where me and Joe collaborated on lyrics, and really feels like the biggest collaborative song of the bunch, both because there were so many different ideas going into it and because it took the longest to put together.
Lyrically and sonically, we wanted to bookend the themes that run through the record, and it became apparent when writing the 2nd half of the song that there was a much more tender vibe to it. It has a somewhat liturgical atmosphere, similar to the kind of thing a particularly devout person might feel when reciting psalms and hymns. It got me thinking about the day Sunday; what it stands for, what it means to people and religions, and I just felt drawn to the idea of the song replicating a feeling of wonderment and worship, not to a god or deity, to a feeling. We always practiced on Sundays when writing the album. and over time, those practices started to feel less like people getting together for a project and more like people just enjoying being in each others company; the music was almost secondary. That's where the handshake thing came from. As much as it's a funny little gesture we'd all do during the last quiet bit of the song, it's a genuine one that just became attached to the band, it just felt right. I'm not trying to say the song gave me a religious experience or anything, but it's a song that always gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling that we want everyone who hears it to feel too. I hope I'm not just speaking for myself when I say this, and I apologise for the sheer amount of cheese that pervades these words, but this song, this record, and this group will always be incredibly important to us and we're all incredibly happy that it's out there now for other people to hear and share with us and their friends.
Curse These Metal Hands is out now via Holy Roar Records. Physical copies can be found here. For more on this incredible collaboration check out our review of the record and our coverage of their set at this year's ArcTanGent.