ALBUM REVIEW – “Language” by The Contortionist

     The Contortionist, known for grinding together a wide variety of angular and calculated takes on the progressive metal genre (also called”djent” if you really want to go there), are growing up. In 2013 vocalist/keyboardist Jon Carpenter left the group, and was replaced by Mike Lessard and Eric Guenther (the new standalone keyboard player). Apparently this lineup shift prompted a subsequent revamp of the band’s musical style.

On the group’s previous efforts, that groove centered brutality had a tendency to produce music that, as mind bending and intricate and talent laced as it was, was on occasion jarring. The band’s followers accepted this, went along and took it as part of the group’s intended sound. It seems The Contortionist thought differently, and took advantage of the new minds behind their music in appropriate fashion.

     Language is above all else a hauntingly beautiful record. The band has, of all of the directions their music spins wildly towards, seems to be leaning towards a sound that is much more based on melody and winding. Yes the band throws in an ounce of brutality here and there, but the songwriting is now more tasteful than ever, the pieces fit more tightly together so to speak. The sense of deliberation and thought is thoroughly ingrained and quite well executed. It can be called more mellow that the band’s previous two albums, in the sense that there are more downplayed moments, but these new dynamics simply elevate the band beyond what they were previously capable of.

The amount of dirty vocals on Languages is actually reduced to a highly conservative minority, to the point that almost all of the songs evade them altogether. This is quite alright, since Lessard is a stunningly good vocalist, taking his new duties in full stride, and showing no fear in truly stretching out and filling his role completely. His style slots perfectly with the lush and spacious guitar writing, especially in songs like “Thrive”, which itself is an absolutely epic piece of work that so many guitarists would give a limb or two to say they wrote.

The Contortionist have gotten past a major member alteration and outdone themselves with Language, plain and simple. The old sense of talent and trickery remains, there is still a ton of detail and crafted inner workings present, but all this is wrapped up in a sound that is tight, gorgeous, and straight up breathtaking at times. Well done.

 

9/10

Max Robison

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