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The Contortionist - Exoplanet CD (album) cover


The Contortionist

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Exoplanet' - The Contortionist (8/10)

Metal has always been a type of music where a little bending of the rules is encouraged, and with that in mind, many talented young acts have been taking advantage of the style to express themselves in new heavy ways. Enter The Contortionist, a five piece progressive metal act that carries that somewhat stigmatic label of 'deathcore' around with them, but as one can hear on their debut full-length record 'Exoplanet', there is much more going on to them than the label implies. Contrasting claustrophobic technical death metal with wonderfully atmospheric jazz and post-rock moments, 'Exoplanet' is a futuristic dive into metal that showcases the skill of some promising young talent.

Many of the younger bands have been attracted to the breakdown-heavy and crushing sounds of deathcore, but to be entirely honest, few are able to pull off the sound with intelligence or taste. The Contortionist is certainly a heavy act by all accounts, but as virtually every track on this debut indicates, there is more going on to them than mere metal riffage. 'Primal Directive' and 'Flourish' both start out as fairly straightforward technical metal tracks, complete with blistering drums and guitars, and fairly generic growls. As the music goes on though, the band is common to shift into lighter, melodic sections. This is where the great strength of 'Exoplanet' lies; in the atmospheric beauty moments where they take it down a notch and contrast their typically heavy metal sound. This is not to say that the metal aspect of The Contortionist is not tight however, just not as unexpected. The Contortionist is very technically complex, and during the most technical moments of their fury, it is often very difficult to predict where the band will head next, even if the sound revolves around the same guitar tones over the course of the record.

The Contortionist does contrast the heavy and light moments throughout the record, and at times, this can start feeling a little formulaic. Luckily, the melodic moments are so atmospheric, and the heavy parts are technical enough to keep the whole thing interesting to the end. The closest comparison or evident influence to the band's sound would actually be to Cynic, and while that influence certainly does not show in the band's necessary breakdowns and tech riffs, it is clear in the melodic moments, particularly in the way that a vocorder is used over the clean vocals. Overall, this gives the band a fairly futuristic sound to them that works well with the sci-fi lyrical themes they cover.

An excellent first full-length from this band, and while I'm not finding myself endeared to every sound that the band has to offer, there are incredible parts here that must be heard by progressive metal listeners.

Report this review (#472324)
Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Djent. As quickly as it entered the "metallisphere" (as I call it) with the rise of Meshuggah, people quickly realized that it's super boring and repetitive. But hey, at least the guitars sound cool? Does that count as progress?

Perhaps, but immediately djent focused bands had to refine their approach, and realized that they could alternate the signature "djent" power chords with more subtle guitar approaches, mix in some ambiance and clarity, and The Contortionist was one of the first to really break that mold and become of the first to rapidly gain attention in a more progressive metalcore environment.

And this album doesn't start off too bad. There's plenty of brutality for the heavy-set, but also a fair bit of singing as well as the contrasting "softer spots". Compared to their future albums, though, this album features the most screaming. Therefore, it may seem contradictory that this, their heaviest disc, might also be the most progressive? Hmm, not quite.

Personally, I like their second effort, "Intrinsic", most of all out their catalog so far. It's a pleasant enough balance between both heavy and soft, singing and screaming, hot vs cold tendencies. While "Exoplanet" is far from brilliant, it is fairly self explanatory in educating the un-educated on just what to expect when listening to this band.

Well to sum it up, it's essentially a brutal disc, occasionally behaving in a very rigid, almost technical way, before the occasional break in the sky and a sweet lull of singing and ambient guitar plucks save you from certain face-smashed doom. Beyond that descriptor, there's not really much more to say about this album (and quite honestly, this band).

I mean, if it's something you'd into from day one, congratulations, you might enjoy it. I still find (especially this disc) to be difficult to get into. The later two albums are more accessible, granted, but "Language" I think feels a bit lifeless, not in complete sell out mode, but almost in complete shut-down mode, and frankly, trying to explain this shift in their sound (so quickly, I might add, just a span of 4 years) is impossible even for me right now.

If you favor the brutal side, this is your album. If not, try "Intrinsic". If, however, you desire a more progressive metallic sound, but you want it to be very friendly and predictable, but also balance heavy and soft, then Skyharbor's "Guiding Lights" is for you (I've been stuck on them for weeks now). With radio friendly choruses but unconventional song structures, it shines where "Languages" tries, but in my opinion, fails.

Report this review (#1441427)
Posted Thursday, July 16, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first Album from the Indiana based Djent metal band and ultimately one of their bests. Most of the songs are ultimately brutal,heavy and technical with some soft spots. It almost has the perfect mixture of growling and "softness", but the soft parts needed a boost. The guitars are technical, the bass is dirty and the drums is just "meh". They did take this hint, but their 2nd album "intrinsic" was less technical overall and had too much softness in it, while this album was near perfection in vocals. The best thing in this album was Exoplanet 1-3, intense progression, on point instrumental techniques and that perfect balance with the vocals. My only issue is that the self proclaimed album song series feels very different from the whole album, with way different song structure from the rest of the album. This isn't necessarily negative, but is just mildly interesting. Turns out some songs (Flourish, Primial Directive) and others were already pre written, while Exoplanet and the better songs in general were written recently to the album's release date. Overall this is a solid technical extreme djent album and is a must listen to all fans of progressive metal.
Report this review (#1999357)
Posted Friday, August 24, 2018 | Review Permalink

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