The Contortionist - Intrinsic
Record Label: eOne Music/Good Fight Music
Release Date: July 17, 2012
We can’t always get what we want. Or can we? A rather noticeable voice from the metal community, and perhaps otherwise, stated quite bluntly that while the overall success of The Contortionist’s debut Exoplanet is blatantly obvious, many people were hoping for the band to take a little less from the meaty plate of deathcore and focus a bit more on their progressive leanings. Well, we can consider what seems to be a collective wish granted, as the band’s sophomore effort matures in a manner much more focused on superb submersion in spacey melodies and crafty rhythmic shifts. While the band hasn’t completely dropped their heavier notions in the pursuit of prog-metal’s arguably more challenging textures and arrangements. Yet, The Contortionist hold strong in their venture towards said glory – even if the path arguably makes for a rougher venture for the band in the process. Intrinsic doesn’t have the general wow factor that made Exoplanet almost immediately gratifying, but in its place lies wonderfully woven guitar lines and a vocalist that can arguably help this band hang with their much more seasoned peers.
If you’re immediately worried that everything aggressive has been abandoned on Intrinsic, “Feedback Loop” gives early evidence that the synth-bombed peaks and poignant riffs here are not standing alone in the band’s efforts to diversify. The mathy bursts through “Causality” and “Geocentric Confusion” are balanced out, much like this album, with wandering slabs of airy melodies from nearly every instrument. Yet even as things get less abrasive, said track’s tangled-root layering about three-quarters through boasts as a standout of the forward-thinking penmanship in terms of structures heard here. In spirit, the deathcore spike of Exoplanet still seem to be present even in the most atmospheric of moments – it isn’t quite difficult to hear in all actuality. But the grittier moments seem much more calculated and manipulated to create tension rather than purge it, a novel thought considering the genre this band often gets a referral to.
Yet, the general success of The Contortionist’s progression, both literally and metaphorically, lies in their ability to meld very impressive musicianship with a texture that is both beckoning (“Parallel Trance”) and gripping in its swelling moods. “Dreaming Schematics” is a prime example, as a very airy beginning sheds itself into a juxtaposed composition of punching rhythms and off-kilter phrasing through a passage of floating vocals. It’s honestly a bit much to take in at once, but that’s really the beauty of this album – the interplay often heard between instruments combines to make something even more interesting than the pieces of the machine itself. It’s easy enough to call a group of guys playing music a band. But it takes a record like Intrinsic to truly call a collection of songs a composition and not just a record.
This brings me to the climax of this record. The possible make or break point for this band in terms of getting new people aboard – something they probably will find themselves doing as they dabble less and less in the dark arts of deathcore. Vocally, there is quite a bit to suggest about what Jonathon Carpenter is able to do here. Whether it is a very commanding bark or the rather surreal cleans that help cement the spacey jam sessions heard throughout Intrinsic, Carpenter is arguably the most vulnerable to criticism – yet he finds a way to meld with the musical shifts through his voice and dabbling synth injections. As far as other prog-rock groups would be concerned, there is sure to be a Tommy Rogers comparison from many. But while it wouldn't be wrong to suggest that while Rogers has an edge on Carpenter in the ferocity department, the approach and production of the cleans on Intrinsic suggest a different shade of things for The Contortionist to bring to the table. While perhaps not the commanding voice he portrays on heavier moments, the exploratory mood through much of this record benefits from something a bit more transparent and airy.
Now that you’ve been beat to death with metaphors and descriptions for the bulk of this review, consider this in closing, if you will. Whether or not you asked for The Contortionist to further themselves from the pack they often run with is irrelevant – it is clear here that Intrinsic reaps the rewards of taking a huge chance on channeling something that might not be the most commercially valuable aspect of their music. Make no mistake here – Intrinsic puts The Contortionist at the top of the list for the future of prog-metal, if not the genre's present as well.
love this band, album is amazing. this is exactly where i wanted them to go, with hints of this style all over exoplanet. very talent band. i'll be listening to this and the new Exotic Animal Petting Zoo for the first half of today.
Just curious, what do you think is overrated about it?
I'm highly enjoying this album, I get a feeling of being teased a lot of times on this album with the heavier stuff peaking in at various times through the layers of prog.
A spiritual successor to Exoplanet would be awesome, but I love this nonetheless.
A lot of it just bores me, though I've never been a fan of the band.
A friend of mine who was a fan of the band said that this was disappointing because the band was trying to be something they weren't. That was where they succeeded in Exoplanet, it wasn't the best thing in the world, but the band knew who they were and were (apparently) damn good at it. In this, the band tries to pursue greatness, trying their hardest to be far better or far more important than they really are.