(eOne Music / Good Fight Music)
The Indiana-based progressive metal wizards, The Contortionist, are back with a bold new direction with Language, their third full-length album. Few bands can truly describe their sound with their moniker, but The Contortionist’s ever-bending arrays of genre-defying riffage are more present than ever in Language, ranging from pummeling low-end aggression to spacey, ambient-esque drifts with the drop of a hat.
Language also marks the entry of vocalist Michael Lessard (Last Chance to Reason), who stepped in to fill vocal duties after Jonathan Carpenter’s departure in early 2013. Lessard seems to pick up perfectly on Carpenter’s cues, who further integrated softer, more dreary vocals on 2012’s Intrinsic. Language features a significantly higher ratio of singing to screams than on any prior release from the group, with some songs on the album barely having any screams at all. Despite some jarringly repetitive lyrics at times (I counted over thirty instances of the phrase “ebb and flow” throughout the disc), I think Lessard did a commendable job of continuing to evolve the vocal dynamics of the group.
For long-time fans clamoring for another album like 2010’s prog masterpiece, Exoplanet, this newest release will take a significant amount of time to acclimate to. Far less frequent on Language are the mind-bending abstract licks, odd time-signature rhythms, and crushing breakdowns the band became known for. Language seems to be more focused on building entrancing atmospheres and hypnotic, emotive passages laced with drawn out vocals and ethereal keyboard work by newcomer Eric Guenther.
The album is not without some good riffs, however. “Thrive” and “Arise” both feature some incredibly tasty riffs, and the intros to “Primordial Sound” and “Ebb & Flow” take some pages right out of Tosin Abasi‘s (Animals as Leaders) book. On the other side of that coin, “Language I: Intuition” and the album’s finale, “The Parable” stand out as the strongest demonstrations of the band’s growing softer side, with the former showcasing probably the most impressive vocal work on the album.
All in all, Language is another strong release from The Contortionist. With a dedication to songwriting and atmosphere front and center, Language builds on the best elements of Intrinsic and develops into an even more formidable beast. Will it stand up to the pressure of the band’s still towering debut, Exoplanet? Given that I’m enjoying Language with each successive listen, I think it’s got a fair shot. (Ivan Torres)
Purchase Language here: iTunes