September 12, 2014 The Contortionist – Language (Album Review)
Extracting organic sound against a galactic haze of prog-metal-fusion, The Contortionist allows balance to be their guide on the September 16th release of Language. Although known for evolutionary-prog, The Contortionist exchanges a bit of djent-y funk for the leisurely radiation of cosmic-synth on their third album. Laced with the signature ambiance of Exoplanet (2010), dissonance of Intrinsic (2012) and a skeleton of the balance theme, Language is encased in classic Contortionist style, if only a bit mellowed. Founded in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2009, the band was quick to tear through the red tape of genre-stereotyping and has continued piecing together the notes of an unidentifiable brilliance to this day. Brothers Joey Baca (drums) and Robby Baca (guitar) use Language as the official introduction of “new” vocalist Michael Lessard (Last Chance to Reason) after having toured with The Contortionist for more than a year. Lessard joins additional members Jordan Eberhardt (bass), Cameron Maynard (guitar) and Eric Guenther (keyboard). Behind the new album, producer Jamie King (Between the Buried and Me, He is Legend, Human Abstract) entices each song into filling the space in which it is heard to maximum capacity.
The album begins with the simple coax of vocals and keys. “The Source” gently spreads each growing layer of sound, expanding in momentum and resonance as the song finishes on a single minor chord. Much like the title, “The Source” defines the audible effects of water. Lessard’s voice carries the ease of weightless drifting in a steady current, seamlessly transitioning into a higher key. Although balance is the foundation upon which Language was built, the album’s strong connection with water is no coincidence. During “Language II: Conspire”, ripples of Eberhardt’s rigid bass line are mirrored by the repeated lyrics, “sink in the ebb and flow.” Skipping ahead 5 tracks, the aptly titled “Ebb & Flow” upholds the strength of liquid’s wrath.
Beginning with the sound of a ticking clock, the severed beats of Baca (Joey) follow a prog-ridden path towards keys of pelting rain. Tapping into an ether of noise filtered by gravity’s finest waves, Guenther’s keys surface above all other instruments. The storm of sound ends with the ever-apparent lyrics “drift in/sink in/the ebb and flow”.
If the album’s first single “Language I: Intuition” was any indication of the songs ahead, fans need to drop everything right now and listen to “Thrive.” Guitarists Maynard and Baca (Robby) create prisms of fleeting speed guided by the sonance of Eberhardt’s quaking bass. Such guilty pleasures are only found between the greatest marriages of bass and guitar, drums and keys. The addition of Lessard’s vocals can be admired by his flexibility. His approach to singing and growling compliment the extreme scale by which The Contortionist creates their music.
Language reflects a balance of fluidity and motion unlike the raw precision of previous albums. Though soft at times, the precision has not disappeared entirely. Instead it is found refining great skill and aiding in the experiment of new. Capturing audible elements while infusing the creative style of a new vocalist is no easy task. But what has yet to stop The Contortionist? Talent brews strong within the sextet and Language is proof. CrypticRock gives this album 3.5 out of 5 stars.