The Contortionist: Intrinsic – Music Review
By Justin Polak
Co-founder, Ambassador to the Mushroom Kingdom
It’s time for another music review of mine based around progressive rock! Could you imagine? I almost never listen to or write about progressive rock!
All joking aside, although I haven’t had any previous listening experience with The Contortionist, I have to say that I never heard anyone fuse prog and deathcore together before. That’s the case with the band’s second full length album, Intrinsic, at least. I’m always up for combining various flavors in my entertainment, but does the combo make a good mix?
When The Contortionist aligns themselves to full on progressive metal, my ears perk up to full attention. Wild, flowing guitars make you feel like you are floating in some sort of impossibly-sized void. The drums are as subtly jazz-influenced as ever while the vocals cradle the listener peacefully. I’m that type of person that can never get tired of just hearing a band straight up jam, and this album provides that wonderful experience many times throughout its duration. If you give Intrinsic a casual listen, you might get a been there/done that feel, but the more the album goes on, the easier it is to spot the The Contortionist’s uniqueness.
However, I am not too fond of deathcore in general. Don’t get me wrong, I like and regularly listen to “heavier” music, but I can never get behind heavier music that gets a little too random (in most cases) with vocals that seem to bark at me. When The Contortionist applies the proper balance between the deathcore and prog influences, I can actually get into it. It’s just when they veer far into that territory I find myself tuning it out. I like the idea of blending these two genres together — even if most of the album doesn’t go in a deathcore route for most of it — but the fusion just isn’t for me when it is at its most intense. At first, it’s fine because it’s something different for the progressive style of music, but the longer it goes on, the more grating and annoying it becomes.
Just because I personally may not care for a certain aspect of music doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it’s value, though. Those of you who are into any form of deathcore will love it when The Contortionist throws down. Even though the transitions in and out of the style is sudden, I can’t deny that there is a natural order to it, like it was meant to be there in the first place. Switching gears like that without seeming like another part of a song suddenly collided with another is no easy task, so I do appreciate the technical prowess behind it. Hell, not even some of my favorite fusion bands can pull off something like that!
However, even if I was into the more heavier parts of Intrinsic, I would still feel that the middle of the album drags a bit. Most of its midsection came off as filler rather than going on a journey, which is how I felt otherwise. The weird thing is that when he music got more chaotic during this part, I found more enjoyment out of it. I could see that The Contortionist was trying to slowly build up that album to that point into a glorious explosion, but I think the problem was they they ramped up the speed and intensity a bit too fast. It’s kind of like having a dramatic climax thirty minutes before you see the end credits in an action movie. It just feels off.
Other than that, Intrinsic is a solid album. “Holomovement,” “Feedback Loop,” “Anatomy Anomalies” and “Cortical” definitely make the highlight reel here. Overall, any progressive rock fan should find some level of enjoyment out of this addition in The Contortionist’s discography. The deathcore elements my derail some listeners’ experience as it did with me, but it’s not a dealbreaker whatsoever. From what I ave learned about the band while reading up on them prior to writing this review, it seems to me that any fans of older material would still dig The Contortionist.
In the end, the result of the mix didn’t always taste great, but The Contortionist’s unique blend is something I would be willing to try again.
Front page image, interior photo from heavyblogisheavy.com.