Review: The Contortionist – Language

The_Contortionist_-_LanguageThe Contortionist is making a big statement with their latest full-length, entitled Language. Released on September 16th with heavy anticipation from the progressive metal community, the album debuted at #52 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Following two very well received albums, Exoplanet (2010) and Intrinsic (2012), there was a lot of anticipation and pressure for the band to deliver an album as groundbreaking as its predecessors.

While the album is in itself an impressive and musically tasteful release, on a much grander scale, it is a musical progression into a larger sound for an ever-maturing group of incredibly talented musicians.

The Contortionist jumped onto the scene in 2010 with the release of their debut album, Exoplanet. While integrating numerous genres and arranging parts displaying superior musicianship, the band has been acclaimed by critics, musicians, and metal lovers ever since their inception. A fluid combination of shredding, brutal breakdowns, complex rhythms, and atmospheric climaxes gives the band a unique and addicting element to each of their albums, and Language is no exception.

The work of a band that creates music as boundless as the cosmos, from which, appropriately enough, many of their lyrical themes surround, Language will take you on a musical journey.

The album opens with a beautiful atmospheric piece made up of cascading vocals, classical guitars and majestic keys. This unexpected introduction moves slowly like the rising action of a feature film begging the listener to crave more. While the keys and guitars trade off melodies, Mike Lessard increases the tension with his vocals until offering an intimate conclusion flowing directly into the second track.

It is with this song, “Intuition”, that the remainder of the band is introduced. Broken guitar chords filled with delay open the song and the remaining instruments eventually fill in the empty space. Moving slowly, the band breaks into a groove and from here, the album officially takes off.

The music drifts much like the “ebb and flow” lyrical theme that is repeated throughout the album. Parts with extremely different tones and emotions come together as the band transitions through each section seamlessly. While there may have been member changes since the last album, you would never be able to guess as the band truly sounds as one and each part is very polished.

“Conspire” is the third track on the album, and the first to really introduce the classic “Contortionist sound” of a polyrhythmic breakdown that the entire band follows. Again, if you’re a musician, especially a drummer, you will love these parts as the band teases the listener by seeming to drift off the pulse while eventually coming back together on the beat. Joey Baca is incredible on drums as he manages to syncopate his rhythms around the pulse while keeping the band and listeners on track.

“Integration” opens with all instruments grooving on one of these syncopated rhythms. It’s almost as if The Contortionist is showing off at this point, displaying their superior rhythmic understanding, creativity and execution. Meanwhile, the rhythm is eventually complemented by a catchy and emotional chord progression. This combination of emotional melody and complex rhythm really pulls the listener in and makes the album what it is.

Some of Language’s most emotional content is found in the beginning and ending portions of the album, emphasizing the fact that the band is able to progress in a smooth, story-like fashion from points of rising action to climax and conclusion. The concluding track on the album, “The Parable”, builds and builds layers of sound to eventually close with Mike Lessard singing a massive, emotional melody. It isn’t until the album ends that you realize what you just heard. Almost in the same fashion as “you don’t know what you have, until you’ve lost it,” Language is not an album you can listen to just once.

While this album may not be for everyone, The Contortionist have truly come out with something that progresses their sound while staying true to their metal roots. Old fans will love it, and almost everyone will appreciate it as a true work of musical art while still being full of kick-ass, ball-busting metal songs. I truly respect and admire this group of musicians for being just that…musicians. And I cannot wait to dissect this album through 1000 listens.

Whatever language The Contortionist is speaking, I understand.






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