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The Contortionist - Clairvoyant CD (album) cover

CLAIRVOYANT

The Contortionist

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal


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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)

Report this review (#1789520)
Posted Saturday, September 30, 2017 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
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.

Report this review (#1818306)
Posted Wednesday, November 1, 2017 | Review Permalink
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

Report this review (#1821326)
Posted Saturday, November 11, 2017 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#1839585)
Posted Thursday, December 7, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3.8/5 great vocals, effects, atmosphere (rounded to 4)

At first I had mixed feelings about this. One one hand, The Contortionist completely abandoned djent roots down tuning and extreme metal, while on the other hand, they actually did it atmospherically right. In the end, I came to terms with it and listened to the whole album with a clear open mind and boy was I happy to do so. This album is just sad and intense. From Monochrome, you can feel a cloud of sadness above you, then a flicker a hope from the paino of Godspeed, to more intense metal from Clairvoyant and return to earth and ending with another sad monochrome.

It is unironically one of my favorite The Contortionist albums.

Report this review (#2023146)
Posted Saturday, September 8, 2018 | Review Permalink

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