Published on January 25th, 2015 | by Gareth Allen0
The Contortionist – Language
The Contortionist is a progressive metal band from Indianapolis. However, to be honest such a label does not do justice to the depth and beauty in their music. For a clue to the eclectic musical influences at play in their majestic music, the band published on Metal Sucks last year their tour playlist, which included the likes of Brian Eno, Frank Zappa, Massive Attack and Meshuggah. Wow, these guys have great musical taste!
Keiran Allen in his Top Ten albums of 2014 for Sonic Bandwagon referred to their new album ‘Language’, as a “Really incredible move for such a innovative band, it really brings a new light on them”. Due to the interruptions of Christmas and two bouts of flu, this reviewer has only now had the opportunity to fully appreciate the musical delights in store on this amazing album, the band’s third, which confirm Keiran’s spot on assessment.
Opening number ‘The Source’, is alive with ambient voice and keyboards/guitar, creating a wistful and pastoral atmosphere, which is the gentlest of introductions, to the powerful sounds to come on this album.
‘Language l: Intuition’ and ‘Language ll: Conspire’, work pretty much as the one seamless musical piece. Your musical journey starts atmospherically, with an exquisite jazz styled rolling rhythm, punctuated by more ambient sounds, and with dream like and breathy vocals swirling over the top. A stunning guitar section then follows, and morphs into ‘Language ll’, and some very tricky jazz-rock time signatures, growled death metal vocals and incredibly aggressive bass and guitar playing. These are astonishing contrasts in the one musical piece, and yet it works on every level, and as a fully formed and complete musical piece.
‘Ebb and Flow’, has that characteristic modern angular math rock sound, but of course with The Contortionist, they use it as something to experiment with and push the boundaries out, rather than as a constraining formula. Half way into the song there is the most amazing bass guitar led section, where we are privileged to hear some stunning staccato loping bass rhythms that swoop and soar, and show the influence of the great Stanley Clarke. If you don’t know the name, check out ‘Vulcan Worlds’ on Return to Forever’s ‘Where Have I Known You Before’. The track also leaves lots of space for musical accents from the guitars and keyboards, to come to the fore and retreat, the musical ebb and flow. It’s a very innovative approach and completely captivating.
‘The Parable’, the final track, has an ethereal keyboard beginning, complemented by some delicate cymbal splashes and melodic bass lines. Heart stopping guitar chords then slash into this gentle beginning, with a beautiful overlay vocal, full of emotion, by Michael Lessard, who makes his studio debut with the band. The track ends as the album began, with some fabulous ambient sounds, and a very quirky, and just plain odd, spoken outro.
This is music drawing on the progressive and metal genres, and doing something completely edgy, experimental, and almost classically compositional, with those musical influences. The Contortionist are playing Tech – Fest in July, in what may be their only UK appearance in 2015. Sonic Bandwagon has no hesitation in recommending you go and see them if you can, and definitely give this album a serious and concentrated listen. You will be glad you have!
By Gareth Allen