Once progressive deathcore trailblazers, The Contortionist curated a great musical re-branding in 2017 with the release of their fourth record Clairvoyant. Eschewing the Earth-shattering breakdowns — that were, in all fairness, waning as the discography moved forward — the band opted instead for more traditionally-crafted songs closer to indie and alt-metal. Our review of Clairvoyant made comparisons to more moody and atmospheric rock acts like Karnivool, Deftones, and Katatonia. The prog and post-rock influences remained, but reigned in and played second stage to a clear effort in building haunting and emotional songs.
Depending on the circles one frequents, the stylistic shift was either welcomed or controversial. One can’t be blamed for missing the days of Exoplanet, which is by now a certified genre classic, but personally, I adored Clairvoyant and thought that it was a more worthwhile realization of the band’s potential than Language, and I had hoped that The Contortionist would continue to pull those strings and elapse, evolve, expand, and adapt.
Two years on, the band offer an update on their musical journey with the scant but worthwhile Our Bones. Four tracks — three originals and a cover — that provides some insight on the continued expansion of the band’s sound. Fans of Clairvoyant will be satisfied with the moves made on Our Bones, with the only complaint being that there just isn’t enough new music to go around.
Our Bones opens with perhaps the strongest Lessard-era The Contortionist song to date with “Follow.” If anything, Lessard has always practiced restraint as a vocalist, particularly on the moody Clairvoyant, and he rarely offered a look at his true power as a vocalist within a single track. “Follow” is a haunting and upbeat track that showcases his potential as an emotive rock vocalist against the band’s lush and explosive instrumentation, with post-rock and prog influences intact. Not to mention the good news: the harsh vocals make a return, and they’re expertly utilized for the track’s more pivotal moments.
Single “Early Grave” is a more understated track, but it’s no slouch either. Bolstered by some of the understated hook-building that the band are sure to become known for, it can be compared to the deceptively-simple Clairvoyant lead single “Reimagined.” The trio of new tracks is rounded out by the beautiful “All Grey”; just shy of two minutes, this lullaby builds a shroud of ambiance, acoustic guitars, and piano under some truly heartfelt singing. This more stripped-back and vulnerable side of The Contortionist that to world needs to hear more of. If only it were longer.
Our Bones comes to an end with The Contortionist’s take on Smashing Pumpkins classic “1979.” The band truly make it their own, with the iconic track’s nostalgic vibe easily translating to their current era’s sound. And it goes without saying, the vocal performance by Lessard is leaps and bounds better than the original. Sorry, Billy Corgan. Years ago it may have seemed unlikely for The Contortionist to offer an earnest, compelling take on a Smashing Pumpkins track, but their rendition is legitimately nice.
In all, Our Bones is a much welcomed stop-gap before the next The Contortionist release and offers hints at their next steps. It’s hard to be mad at this bite-sized chunk of new tunes; the band continue to develop the Clairvoyant sound, and the songs are more expertly crafted and are ultimately more immediate and gripping, which bodes well for The Contortionist’s future as a leading band in progressive and alternative metal.
Our Bones is out August 9th, 2019 through eOne Music. Pre-orders are available at this location.