02. Feedback Loop
04. Sequential Vision
05. Geocentric Confusion
06. Dreaming Schematics
07. Anatomy Anomalies
10. Parallel Trance
It can be argued that up-and-coming progressive metallers The Contortionist changed the landscape of a genre upon impact of their 2010 debut album Exoplanet. Combining devastating breakdowns and post-rock crescendos was a new idea prior to Exoplanet, and we’re already starting to see its influence on younger bands taking root in the scene of deathcore and djent. The band continues their growing legacy with their sophomore album Intrinsic, which sees the band transcending deathcore and becoming prog acolytes.
While it may not be as immediately arresting as their debut, Intrinsic makes up for it in its depth and complexity that makes Exoplanet look like shallow water. The Contortionist have pushed themselves into stranger progressive territory, further exploring influences akin to Cynic and Rush. The Earth-shattering breakdowns of Exoplanet have been kept to a minimal, the band instead focusing on moody atmospheres and experimental bouts of prog. This greater breadth of dynamic makes the heavier sections that much more extreme by contrast. Where Exoplanet was an off-kilter assault, Intrinsic is an ethereal exploration of the band’s full potential as musicians.
While the band’s roots in deathcore may not have completely disappeared into the ether, fans of Exoplanet‘s more core-oriented sound will likely find Intrinsic difficult to grasp considering the departure. Analyzing Intrinsic based on the merits of Exoplanet is like comparing apples to oranges; they’re on two different planes. Punishing shivs of brutality do swing in through the prog flourishes, but in the grand scope of things, The Contortionist are more concerned with thoughtful introspection and stargazing than throwing down in the pit. The balance has shifted in the opposite direction; one could say that Intrinsic is the mirror image of Exoplanet, acting as its compliment.
Whether as a cause or as a result of this stylistic shift, frontman Jon Carpenter is much more hands-on this time around. Much of the material on Exoplanet was written before Carpenter was a member, so his touch on the songwriting aspect is certainly felt with the all-new material. Where Exoplanet kept the keyboards in a supporting role, Intrinsic finds the keys at an equal playing field, at times even taking the lead. This greater presence leads to much interplay between guitar and keys, notably during the breathtaking instrumental bridge during ‘Feedback Loop,’ which features acoustic guitar and playful synths.
Carpenter is also gaining more confidence in his voice, taking a preference for clean singing and taking more chances with vocodor effects. While his unique singing voice is anything but powerful, his mellow tones work well with Intrinsic‘s otherworldly atmosphere. To reciprocate, when Carpenter does go in for Intrinsic‘s more confrontational moments, his growls are much more intense. He is really coming into his own on Intrinsic, with his vocals starting to show character; they are a unique defining element to the band rather than a replaceable carbon-copy. He’s figuring out his strengths and weaknesses, and the band are highlighting his skills as such.
It’s always a relief when an already promising band decides to capitalize on the influences that made them so special. An attempt at another album like Exoplanet would have likely been welcomed by many, but at the end of the day, it’s better that their debut album is left as a unique entity. Intrinsic moves the band forward in a logical progression, finding a nirvana among the vast reaches of space. If this much maturation occurred over two years time, it’s hard to imagine what these young musicians are capable of in the long-term. When Exoplanet was released, I called them the future of metal. At this rate, I stand correct in my assumption.
The Contortionist – Intrinsic gets…