The Contortionist: Language

In grand scheme of progressive metal as it’s evolving in 2014, I have to say that a vast majority of it is extremely impressive. I think we’ve started to drift away from labeling everything as djent and the bands are writing more progressive music again. Some bands have developed their sound so much that they hardly sound like their previous material. I feel The Contortionist can fit into this category and with their new album, Language, we see a dramatic stylistic shift in the music that is very fresh and exciting.

Now, they’re not reinventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination, but sonically, I feel as though I’m listening to a completely different band. Admittedly, I had a hard time getting into the band on their first album, Exoplanet, but started to pay more attention to them when Intrinsic came out (at this point I’ve revisited Exoplanet, which has really grown on me). Now, four years later and three albums in we have Language, an awe-inspiring journey of lush soundscapes and majestic vocals with the occasional brash of aggression an chaos to stir the pot.

Every member of the band is at the top of their game on this record especially, Michael Lessard, the band’s new vocalist. Formerly of Last Chance to Reason, Lessard replaced Jonathan Carpenter back in March of 2013. There have also been further shifts in the bands lineup. Christopher Tilley, who played bass on Intrinsic, is not featured on this new record. Instead, Robby Baca covers all of the bass parts on this album including the guitars, as he has always done in the past along with Cameron Maynard. Jordan Eberhardt performs a bass solo on “Thrive” so I’m wondering if he’ll fill in the void for the upcoming tours or if he is just a late-but-still-new addition to the band. Additionally, Carpenter did all of the keyboard parts as well as singing on Intrinsic, so the band now features Eric Guenther on the keys.

I’m not sure who wrote all of the lyrics for this album, but it seems to continue with the science-fiction theme that Carpenter strived for on the previous records. Also, I think the real contribution to the bands drastic change in sound can also be contributed to the fact that the band worked with a new producer on this record for the first time. The producer was Jamie King, who has worked with bands like Anathema, Between the Buried & Me, and Kill Whitney Dead in the past. I think he’s solely responsible for making these new songs sound as monumental and as dense as they come across on record.

The album kicks off with “The Source,” a very spacious tracks with some vocal harmonies floating in the atmosphere. A nice opening to “Language” parts 1 (Intuition) and 2 (Conspire). From there the listener is past the point of no return as keyboard sweeps and melodic guitars swirl around your head and you can’t help but by completely entranced for the entire duration of the record. Tracks like “Thrive,” “Primordial Sound,” and “Ebb and Flow” will leave you breathless and wanting more. The thing is though, there really isn’t even a dull moment on this record or a second where you don’t think ‘man, that’s cool.’

Overall, a really strong release for this band. They’ve already proven themselves worthy with the past two records, so I’ll be interested to see how everyone reacts to this record. I think it’s one of the better records to have come out this year and a great new progressive metal record to throw into the archives.

Luke Helker

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