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THE CONTORTIONIST

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • United States


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The Contortionist biography
THE CONTORTIONIST is a US (Indianapolis, Indiana) progressive Deathcore act formed in 2007. The band released a couple of EPs before releasing their debut full-length studio album "Exoplanet" in 2010.

( Biography written by UMUR)

The Contortionist official website

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The Contortionist - LanguageThe Contortionist - Language
Metal/Entertainment One 2014
Audio CD$11.07
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THE CONTORTIONIST discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

THE CONTORTIONIST top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.60 | 24 ratings
Exoplanet
2010
3.59 | 20 ratings
Intrinsic
2012
3.69 | 27 ratings
Language
2014
4.15 | 28 ratings
Clairvoyant
2017

THE CONTORTIONIST Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE CONTORTIONIST Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

THE CONTORTIONIST Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

THE CONTORTIONIST Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

1.18 | 3 ratings
Shapeshifter
2008
3.22 | 4 ratings
Apparition
2009

THE CONTORTIONIST Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Clairvoyant by CONTORTIONIST, THE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.15 | 28 ratings

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Clairvoyant
The Contortionist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Fenris

2 stars In my opinion the new album from The Contortionist is very far from being progressive rock. It has some odd twist and turns and the song structures are more adventurous than your average pop or heavy rock song. But in terms of melodies, creativity in the instrumentation and the overall commercial and polished mainstream sound it resembles nu metal and post rock more than progressive rock. All the while the songs does some interesting things with time signatures, very often the vocal parts parts come off as pretty plain and straight forward, and a lot of the rhythm guitar feels generic. Like many other bands of today they incorporate progressive elements around what basically are pop songs. The musicianship is very good throughout the record, and the vocalist does a good job in contrasting the heavier guitars with a softer and cleaner expression. But, my main issue with this is that I feel that I've heard this so many times before from other bands.

All in all I'd say that this album and band has the potential to break into a big commercial market, but I would never label it progressive rock or progressive metal.

 Clairvoyant by CONTORTIONIST, THE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.15 | 28 ratings

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Clairvoyant
The Contortionist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by ingmin68

5 stars "Clairvoyant" - a great music prog metal work, varying from more intricate parts to ,catchy mellower "songs (almost-pop, in a good term)", to minisuites. Great vocals - similar in approach to Echolyn ones, though maybe with a little less extension. The sound and production quality is top-notch - a highly enjoying listening experience on cloud speakers or earphones The intro of Monochrome with thunderous-heavy drum beat led me to think about a tech/extreme metal (not my cup of tea)...but it's just a good misleading initial trick: from there the music expands and get mellower ...in the vein of Pain of Salvation. Then just transition well into "Godspeed" fast intro - energic and upbeat song. From here on, you've treated with a continuously different set of music, with the catchy "Reimagined" The top-class "Clairvoyant" uses some of Maudlin-of-the-Well-like heavy chords, then evolves again from min.4:00 to a milder section and then brilliant section with great guitar, keyboard and vocal harmonies, full-band feast of great music. All next songs continues to surprise and show off moment of great musical ideas (ex. the intro of Relapse - remind of something from Riverside). I'm just finishing with the ending "Mochorome (pensive)" - a superbmini suite-slow building till the epic final - I do love these pieces...

Recap: no doubt - one the candidates for Best Album of the 2017. "The contortionist" Bravi, indeed!! 5 stars? Maybe on 9/10 would fit better

 Clairvoyant by CONTORTIONIST, THE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.15 | 28 ratings

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Clairvoyant
The Contortionist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

5 stars This Indiana-based band has matured and, if truth be known, mellowed over the seven years they've been recording and releasing excellent Metal-oriented heavy Prog albums, but this is their best. They have mastered individual restraint and understated performances in favor of group chemistry, group composition, and seductively gorgeous heavy prog music. Simply stunning.

1. "Monochrome (Passive)" So many creative computer/Hal 9000/synth openings on this album, of which this is the first. As it amps up into heavy guitar and bass distortion it fits! It works. Then the song settles into a softer, almost nujazz groove, with some great guitar and keyboard interaction. I haven't heard this creative and innovative keyboard work in years! (10/10)

2. "Godspeed" (3:14) fast opening and abrasive, settling into great weaves to support Michael Lessard's restrained vocal. Amazing subtle effects and contributions throughout--especially the restrained yet virtuosic guitar work. Michael actually lifts his voice in that last minute just before the guitar does the same. Awesome! (9.5/10)

3. "Reimagined" (3:17) gorgeous heavier song on the KARNIVOOL or VOTUM scale of latently heavy prog. (9/10)

4. "Clairvoyant" (7:37) is the first true metal, djenty song on the album (IMHO)--complete with chorale-styled vocal sections and machine gun bass drum pedal play. Really gorgeous transitions and chorus sections; nothing too difficult or abrasive but all played to group perfection. Also the most diversified and chameleonic song on the album. (9/10)

5. "The Center" (7:34) a smooth, gorgeous song that continues to build while Michael Lessard seduces us with his incongruously sedate vocal. Is he the new Maynard James Keenan? Just brilliant! Reminds me of my favorite song from last year by THE MERCURY TREE. (9.5/10)

6. "Absolve" (5:12) brilliant restraint shown on this vocal despite the yearnings of the music to soar! Makes for a great tension between the two. At 5:05 the song shifts, kind of cuts out, while a spacey, post-esplosion synth- concerto slowly builds and (9.5/10)

7. "Relapse" (6:14) opens as an odd synth experiment with spacey vocal for the first 1:30 before the heavy rock instruments enter. Synth washes and sliding power chords finish off the first half before a piano-based, computer- paced section with Lessard saying "They're clairvoyant." Interesting sliding-tremolo guitar solo in the fifth and sixth minutes. It even gets a little djenty at times. (9/10)

8. "Return to Earth" (6:15) spacious and atmospheric genius that lets loose at the 1:25 into a heavier (though simple) and still gorgeous and inviting prog song. Vocalist Michael Lessard has the silky smooth pipes to keep the listener engaged despite the frenetics of his mates--like a mellower version of LEPROUS. (8.5/10)

9. "Monochrome (Pensive)" (9:24) very nice song that, unfortunately, takes seven and a half minutes to finally soar to the heights one might expect from a nine and a half minute "epic." (9/10)

A five star a masterpiece of gorgeously woven heavy prog. My nominee for Most Improved Band and Best Heavy Prog album of the year--and maybe Most Creative Keyboard Player in Eric Guenther.

 Clairvoyant by CONTORTIONIST, THE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.15 | 28 ratings

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Clairvoyant
The Contortionist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Mebert78

5 stars It's fitting The Contortionist's new album is titled Clairvoyant, because I'm going to start this review with a prediction: this band has a bright future ahead. A very bright future. Those of you familiar with the group know this already. But this album was the first I ever purchased by the Indianapolis-based progressive metal band, so they're still pretty new to me. Well, to say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. A huge understatement.

Just to provide some background, I first heard of The Contortionist when I saw them open a couple years ago for either Animals as Leaders or Tesseract (I can't remember which band) at Revolution Bar & Music Hall, a 500-person venue on Long Island. They'd impressed me enough to like them on Facebook, and I subsequently enjoyed the music videos from their 2014 album, Language. But, for some reason, I neglected to explore the band any deeper. That will all change with Clairvoyant. Not only has the band mesmerized me with their new nine-track disc, but it's continued to keep me mesmerized for a few weeks now. While that might not seem like a big deal to most people, remember the roster of prog artists that have recently released albums: Caligula's Horse, The Great Discord, Leprous, Steven Wilson and Threshold. Not a bad handful of names. But they've all taken a backseat due to Clairvoyant.

For starters, I must point out that Clairvoyant contains little to no screamed vocals, which is a departure from the band's past sound. The screamlessness became clear when the band shared three tunes online prior to the album's release: "Reimagined," "Absolve" and "Return to Earth." To me, these melodic songs are arguably the disc's catchiest, with "Reimagined" and "Return to Earth" both having captivating videos I viewed dozens of times this summer. There's just something oddly hypnotic about this young group, whether on stage or screen. Of the three tunes, I feel "Return To Earth" is the best of the bunch. It's an absolute beast. I'd even go as far as to say it's my favorite song of the year thus far. Other standout tunes include the rockin' "Godspeed," Deftones-eque "The Center," and brilliantly eerie "Relapse."

As for Clairvoyant in its entirety, it's a haunting journey filled with addictive riffs, atmospheric keyboards and introspective lyrics. Vocalist Michael Lessard shines with his subdued style that reminds me of ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore's singing in Chroma Key and OSI. Lessard has a soft and controlled delivery even in parts where other frontmen might get aggressive, which distinguishes him from his peers in a refreshing way. I can almost feel his zen-like tendencies rubbing off on me as a listener. My only criticism is that I would love to have lyrics in the booklet. The album seems to be about a loved one struggling with drugs, and the words seem so well-crafted that I'd really like to sit and sink my teeth into them.

But the praise doesn't end with Lessard. The whole band shows what they're capable of from "Monochrome (Passive)" to "Monochrome (Pensive)," which beautifully bookend the disc and give it a cohesive feeling. Drummer Joey Baca blew me away with his inventive rhythms that even keep the slower moments moving, while guitarist Robby Baca shows us that he's ready to be mentioned among the genre's best. And, of course, I was must highlight the keyboard wizardry of Eric Guenther, whose perfectly selected sounds add an extra depth to each tune.

The disc flows so well that it's over before you know it, making it feel much shorter than its 54-minute running time. Ironically, it left me wanting more to the point where I immediately ordered the group's previous record, which is their only other release that features Lessard. Regretfully, I missed the band's show last week opening for Between the Buried and Me in Manhattan, but I won't miss any future performances of The Contortionist. That's for sure.

In closing, I'd say The Contortionist have not only released an album of amazing new music with Clairvoyant, they've released a work of art. A meticulously assembled work of art that will leave listeners in appreciation for years to come. A bright future, indeed. Very bright.

- Michael R. Ebert (progzombie.blogspot.com)

 Exoplanet by CONTORTIONIST, THE album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.60 | 24 ratings

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Exoplanet
The Contortionist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Wicket
Prog Reviewer

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.

 Intrinsic by CONTORTIONIST, THE album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.59 | 20 ratings

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Intrinsic
The Contortionist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Insin

3 stars The Contortionist's first album, Exoplanet, is strongly based in djent and deathcore, and their third album, Language, is full of melodic, soft passages with the occasional heavy interlude. Intrinsic is a logical bridge between the two, less founded in deathcore (and metal in general), with gentle, sugary parts balanced nicely with the heavy, and perhaps even dominating. The closest match to this band's sound would have to be Cynic, considering the band's roots in metal and their tendency to float into completely unaggressive, soft parts. (The Contortionist doesn't excessively use robot/vocoder vocals, so that automatically puts them above Cynic in my opinion.)

The juxtaposition of soft and heavy parts is generally done well, transitions between the two flowing rather than sudden. The melding of these portions is a good effect, useful in bringing Intrinsic more variation and a more progressive sound, but the interplay between the parts seems lacking, like it could have been done better. The parts don't sound like they have much relation to each other and they don't do a good job of moving the song anywhere. After a heavy part occupied by harsh vocals, The Contortionist returns to sugary singing and warm guitars as if it never happened. Since the band's transitions themselves aren't inherently worthwhile (you won't be left thinking "wow, that was cool"), there should be some kind of purpose to the part that is transitioned into. The interplay makes it Intrinsic a more entertaining and progressive listen, but in the end it doesn't really affect how the song moves along, the soft and hard only serving to contrast each other. It doesn't leave the listener wondering what is going to happen next? all of the songs sound very similar to each other anyway.

While the each song as a whole flows but seems as though it is not constructed with the larger musical idea in mind, the individual parts are not bad, though the album's major flaw is that it would be much better if the riffs and instrumentation were more memorable (as an example, I am a sucker for keyboards, but these ones did nothing for me). The clean singing that helps mark the soft passages isn't great, as it is completely emotionless and unaggressive. It resembles the whiny emo vocals so often used in metalcore, but it's not an exact fit. There's a slight spacey, futuristic feel to the music, especially demonstrated and emphasized by the lyrics, and The Contortionist has mostly abandoned breakdowns? mostly.

Given this step away from deathcore and a smooth but still somewhat ineffective incorporation of soft passages into metal roots, Intrinsic is a fairly decent album in a small niche of prog occupied by bands like Cynic. The Contortionist has an interesting sound, though it is one that could be executed better and probably has. Intrinsic is more progressive and an improvement from their first album. The album following Intrinsic is even better, and hopefully this band will continue to improve because they have the potential to make some great prog. Baby steps, guys.

 Language by CONTORTIONIST, THE album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.69 | 27 ratings

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Language
The Contortionist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Andy Webb
Special Collaborator Retired Admin

4 stars The source of a prog metal era

The Contortionist is one of a slew of tech prog metal bands that came out in the mid-2000s as a solution to the believed lack of Meshuggah impersonators. It turns out that all along, no one really wanted a bunch of neu- Meshuggah bands, but nevertheless, dozens upon dozens of 'djent' bands as they were called emerged onto the scene. Some of these bands, such as Periphery and TesseracT, did good with the style and furthered the prog metal genre by taking after Meshuggah's signature sound. Many (many) other bands, however, such as Volumes, Monuments, and others, simply made a mockery of themselves by producing immature, flat music that never wavered in style, timbre, or direction. For half a decade, these bands churned out album after album of this music, and eventually, the market for djent more or less closed.

The bands which understood djent had to be dynamic in order to be sustained, such as the aforementioned Periphery, TesseracT, and others, added new elements to their music, such as ambience, melody, and other styles to make it more interesting and sustainable. The Contortionist, which started originally based in deathcore djent more than anything else with their first album Exoplanet, picked up on this very quickly and more or less abandoned the djent sound with their second album Intrinsic in 2012. While they still had the heavy djenty sound on much of the album, it was clear the band was headed in a much more ambient and atmospheric sound culture than a djent one. Their music still contained elements of riffy djent and death metal, but after the addition of Mike Lessard on vocals, whose strength is in clean vocals rather than screams, the band's music lightened significantly.

With the release of Language in 2014, it was clear The Contortionist had made a stylistic shift. The band released the first part of the self-titled track as a single several months before the release of the album, and just from there, I knew I was hooked. The song is airy, gentle, and ambient in the beginning, with dreamy, almost psychedelic guitars that still maintain the almost robotic precision that was present in the technicality of their previous work. From there, the vocals come in, adding an even dreamier quality to the music. Mike's melodies are soft on this track, giving the song a remarkable flow (purposefully, I assume, as a motif of the album is the ebb and flow of life). The song builds and builds and builds, until it breaks into an absolutely infectious groove which, on the full album, leads perfectly in the clearly much heavier second part.

The entire album acts like this. It (again) ebbs and flows into periods of dreamy atmospheres and then into moments of progressive death metal that still has an ambient and dreamy feel to it. Never on the album do the moods seem over the top, however, and when it feels like they've gone too far with a heavy bit, they transition effortlessly into a softer passage.

The album, however, is not without flaws. At times the album can seem to lose direction, with a guitar riff seeming a little loopy or amelodious, very rarely does a passage sound out of place. Take the beginning of "Integration," for instance, where the entire intro is a steady buildup to a grooving riff-based song. Almost the entire first two minutes, however, has little to no melodic direction or structure. While the song is not bad in any way, it's just a little awkward to listen to, especially after the perfectly executed title track that plays before it. It isn't until almost halfway through the song does the track really gets going in terms of groove and syncopation. The lyrics at many points on the album seem half-baked at best. While it's understandable that they were written when the band was completely baked, at times they don't seem to make any sense at all.

Even with these few flaws, though, the entire album is blissful to listen to. For a primarily death metal based band, the band knows how to perfectly balance their more atmospheric passages with their heavier ones to make an absolutely heavenly listening experience. The mix doesn't make any one element overpowering or underappreciated, so on a nice stereo system, the entire experience is enveloping and pleasant. The warm guitar tones used throughout the album blend nicely and give the entire album a great tone, and Mike's vocal melodies round out the band's sound very nicely. Overall, the album shows a remarkable evolution for a band that was originally almost exclusively a deathcore band, and it shows just what can truly be done with the prog metal genre. 4+ stars.

 Language by CONTORTIONIST, THE album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.69 | 27 ratings

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Language
The Contortionist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Gallifrey

2 stars Djent is dying.

Thank. God.

Even if I can't fully say I enjoy the Contortionist's Language as a musical entity, I certainly enjoy what it and Altered State and Guiding Lights represent as a new stage in progressive metal. Over the last few years djent has risen up and flooded the prog scene, even though the prog badge it claimed so boldly to have was always up for debate from the progheads of old. But let's face it - was djent really ever a progressive movement? The fans sure like to claim it is to collect their precious 'cred', but everyone else in the world saw it for what it was, a (slightly better) continuation of the "scene" movement of the mid-2000's, complete with a new, equally ridiculous fashion style, generic, heavy, shinily polished and oh so formulaic music, and filled to the brim with 15-year-olds. Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on it (completely), I'm just trying to describe it as what it is. No matter how many times the djentkids would explain to you that "IT DOESN'T HAVE BREAKDOWNS IT'S NOT METALCORE" or "DUDE THOSE POLYRHYTHMS ARE SO PROG", the truth was simply there in how plain awful the music was - it was metalcore. (or if it wasn't metalcore, it was 350-note-per-second ""jazz-influenced"" hyper-technical wankery, but I won't touch on that right now)

But like with any teenage-oriented phenomenon, what we get, after a few years of trash, is something remarkable, known as "growing up". Not only are the bands themselves getting tired of writing formulaic, amelodic trite, but the fans are growing up and growing out of childish, angsty music. No one wants to hear how fast you can play or how hard you can chug or how close you can get your tone to the sound of a duck being stabbed, they want to hear music with actual quality, actual compositions, and actual merit. And although Language is far from good, this is just another step to quality. Give them five years, and Skyharbor, TesseracT, The Contortionist, and even some non-djent bands like Chaos Divine and Existem, will be the next Porcupine Trees and Anathemas and Opeths.

The Contortionist were one of the djent bands who never really denied the fact that they were also metalcore, and while that gets some respect for me for embracing it rather than hiding behind a barrier of "m..muh polyrhythms" like so many bands in this area, it didn't exactly make their music good. Both Intrinsic and Exoplanet were embarrassing abominations of messy riffs, disgusting metalcore vocals, br00tal riffs and chug-core breakdowns. Sure, every few minutes they'd break into a post-rock interlude that sounded like glorious brilliance when compared to what was around it, but if you isolated those short, nice sections and played them alone, you realise that they're not too hot, either. And that's basically what we have here, with Language. A 49-minute long, clean-sung post-rock interlude. The roles have been flipped, and we have pretty much all sugary tones and clean vocals, with the heavy, metalcore chugfests being used as interludes as the clean parts were on the previous albums. And sometimes, not very often, The Contortionist hit stuff that shows potential.

People have been comparing this album a bit to Cynic's rather legendary comeback album, Traced in Air, and album that I admire and respect, but can't quite enjoy fully. Cynic's vocoder and electronic-heavy style of clean singing and angular riffing has certainly been an inspiration to the non-metalcore side of djent since the beginning, but it always seemed that above the bands' aims to create melodically and harmonically interesting music to contrast the chugging and screaming, their aims to make their atmosphere as lifeless and cheap-sounding as possible always got in the way. There is a sheen over this album; a glittering, shining envelope of sparkling synths and dreamy ambience that all sounds like it was recorded on a casio in someone's basement. It's been a problem for a while, really ever since Uneven Structure popularised it on Februus, the ambience and atmosphere created by the keyboardist has to sound as slick and cheap as possible, with no exceptions. Listen to the opening of "Integration" (bonus shoutout to the ridiculously stupid song titles on this album), and ignore the guitars playing random notes - that for sure is just the sugariest synth setting on the cheapest keyboard you can buy, how did anyone ever think it was a good idea to actually put that on an album? In concept, the ambience that so band of these bands aim for is a great idea, adding melody to an often amelodic genre, but it is always done in such an average way that, in combination with the reverb on the clean vocals and guitars, just ends up as a muddy soup of dreamy sounds that never mesh with each other in any way.

So what does this album have going for it, aside from the "not being terrible" part? Well, even if the way they are presented is weak and soggy, the melodies here are very pretty and often quite good. Sure, every time he sings it feels like he's whispering meaningless new age-isms with absolutely no correlation to the rest of the music, but he regularly hits some dreamy and sweet melodies, particularly during the rather not-awful "Primordial Sound". This song really feels like something Devin Townsend could put as a softer section, and although there is plenty wrong with the drum tones and vocal delivery and guitar tones and everything else, the song's core melodies and progressions are actually alright. Apart from that, I guess the clean guitars get some nice runs every now and then, but the star of this is really the vocalist, whenever he starts singing as opposed to whispering.

But above everything, the biggest problem with this album is how poorly everything meshes together. It's like there was absolutely no mixing on this at all - the keyboards are there and the vocals are here being all dreamy, then the guitars are off over the side playing awkward chords in some unrelated time signature, and the drums are on the other side trying to be complex and stuff. And when the band needs to go heavy, they do it in such a weak and unremarkable way with guitars never locking into any form of groove, just playing aimless and unrelated notes. Listen to the intro of "Language II: Conspire" and tell me that isn't one of the most embarrassing attempts at playing a guitar you have ever heard. And these heavy sections are made even worse by the gross harsh vocals and the fact that the bloody keyboards are still playing off the side, as if nothing happened. There is absolutely no relation between the parts on this record, it just sounds like an ocean of wimpy, slightly damp porridge. As much as I want to love this album, everything about it is done so poorly and shoved together so haphazardly that I'm having trouble defending it even to myself.

The Contortionist are certainly on the right direction, but they have a way to go. The idea behind this album is good in concept, but the timbres, production and delivery are so weak and poorly executed that it really doesn't make good listening, despite the fact that this is literally gold compared to their first two albums. It might take them some time to get up to where their new contemporaries Skyharbor and Tesseract are up to, but I think they can get there. Don't give up now, little recovering djentcore band, you can make good music soon.

3.9

Originally written for my Facebook page/blog: www.facebook.com/neoprogisbestprog

 Shapeshifter by CONTORTIONIST, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2008
1.18 | 3 ratings

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Shapeshifter
The Contortionist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

1 stars 'Shapeshifter' - The Contortionist (2/10)

First, let's give this thing some context. In 2010, progressive metal band The Contortionist released 'Exoplanet', a great album that showcased the talent of this young act quite nicely. A year before that, The Contortionist released 'Apparition', an EP that definitely suffered from a few issues, but still came across as an inventive and interesting piece of music. It therefore comes as a huge surprise to hear The Contortionist playing something that is so bad. Before they developed into a technical progressive metal act it seems, The Contortionist were dead set on a cringeworthy brand of deathcore; heavy on breakdowns and gutturals, and light on intelligence or tact. In fact, 'Shapeshifter' is one of the worst things I have heard in quite a long time, made especially surprising due to the fact that while most of the bad things I hear are from bands I have low expectations for, The Contortionist is a band that I have come to really respect.

It doesn't take long to realize something is missing from The Contortionist's sound. Even if I had gone to listening to the band without having the great precedent of their more recent proggy material to disappoint me further, 'Shapeshifter' would still come off as the primordial adolescent ooze that it is; a group of kids that prove they can play for a few seconds of each song with a neat solo or technical riff, than throw it all away for another reprise of deathcore's favourite trait; the infamous breakdown. A piece of deathcore canon that may give the kiddies all the reason in the world to nod their heads but makes me shake mine, the breakdown is featured profusely here, and the vocals are only as terrible as I could imagine them to be. An immature howl or grunt is an atrocious performance, and takes the band from being boring to being downright unpleasant to listen to.

The last track here 'Nonmanual Dexterity' does feature a little more going on in it than the rest of the garbage here, but that is not to say it is good, it is to say that theres a moment or two here that show promise. A post-rock section is featured here, and it starts getting quite powerful, but it gets ultimately brought down by some nasty clean vocals that really show the vocalist's immaturity as a musician at this point. Luckily, this one section would get salvaged and reworked on later releases, and here, it is the only part of 'Shapeshifter' that does not reek of piss.

The Contortionist really gets off to a rough start with 'Shapeshifter', and its quite astounding how they were able to tweak and improve their sound so much in the space of a year before 'Apparition'. With this though, I would be inclined to say that this is one of the worst EPs I have heard in months, and perhaps ever. Awful, and were it not for a moment of promise towards the end of the EP, this would be a complete and utter throwaway entirely. Pathetic.

 Apparition by CONTORTIONIST, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2009
3.22 | 4 ratings

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Apparition
The Contortionist Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'Apparition' - The Contortionist (6/10)

Before the release of their excellent full-length 'Exoplanet', The Contortionist laid down a very solid foundation for their sound with this self-release. Having been introduced to this American progressive deathcore act through their debut, I have had high expectations for all of their other material, but at the same time, it is difficult not to compare this EP (and 'Shapeshifter') with the debut, which is significantly more developed and refined than the sound here. 'Apparition' is certainly a strong statement for this band though, especially considering it was released while they were still an underground group. While the band's progressive elements are firmly intact here, a little too much of the rather lame deathcore sound is still present, which can make The Contortionist's sound a big of a mixed result.

Even upon first listen, I noticed that many of the musical ideas were sounding familiar, and indeed they are; The Contortionist would later go on to recycle many of these ideas for their more mass-distributed full0length, and luckily, it's the best parts of 'Apparition' that make the cut, as opposed to the weak elements, of which there are a few to mention here. The Contortionist plays a technical style of metal that then alternates between heavier deathcore moments and lighter post-rock sections. The Contortionist can certainly hold their own when it comes to metal; their riffs are fairly standard when it comes to technical death metal, but enjoyable nonetheless. The more simplistic deathcore breakdowns are inherently mediocre and lacking in much interest, but the lighter moments of The Contortionist do tend to set them apart. It is a very nice feeling to hear a band go from chaotic technicality to something very beautiful and effective in its simplicity. The sense of melody is also quite strong in these parts.

'Apparition' does tend to feature a little too much of the adolescent deathcore elements than I might be comfortable with, and while they do tend to make me cringe towards the most generic of the breakdowns here, the rest of the sound that The Contortionist has to offer does make the trade worth it. Many of the best ideas here would go on to be further developed with 'Exoplanet' though, so in hindsight, 'Apparition' can feel a little obsolete. Be that as it may, the EP is fairly strong, and indicative of the potential that they would later grasp with the debut.

Thanks to bonnek for the artist addition.

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