I got into The Contortionist after hearing the first song off their debut album on a sampler from Good Fight Music. They walked the line between djent and deathcore. Thankfully they never quite went full on deathcore on their debut album “Exoplanet” but it often got closer than I wanted. By the time their second album “Intrinsic” came out, the band had dumped all traces of deathcore but were a combo of tech death metal and prog metal. The growth between those two albums was quite obvious.
From there, the band went through a major personnel change with vocalist/keyboardist Jonathan Carpenter leaving and being replaced by Michael Lessard on vocals and Eric Guenther on keyboards. Once again, the growth between albums was staggering. “Language” was VERY different from “Exoplanet” and also quite different from “Intrinsic.” Not only were the death vocals gone but having a dedicated keyboardist really opened up their sound. The band had also changed bassists too with former Scale the Summit bassist Jordan Eberhardt coming on board.
That brings us to the latest album by The Contortionist, “Clairvoyant.” I suppose the dramatic evolution needed to slow down and with this album, The Contortionist aren’t trying to reinvent themselves again. Rather they seem to have found a sound that they like and are keen to develop that sound. “Clairvoyant” is even more ambient and arguably more melodic. Songs like the title track, “The Center” and “Absolve” are some of the best songs the band has ever done.
Down side? I find myself wishing Lessard would cut loose vocally. I am fairly certain he can but instead he sounds more shoegaze and even emo with his subtle approach. Maybe Dan Tompkins has spoiled me a bit but this type of prog metal with all of it’s atmosphere and dynamics needs the same in the vocal department too. Don’t get me wrong, Lessard is a damn good singer. He just never attacks a note. Because of that the lead single “Reimagined” sounded rather boring when I heard it.
It’s no accident that the bookend tracks have parentheticals of “Passive” and “Pensive.” Those are definitely the moods that abound on “Clairvoyant.” Is this their best album? I’m not sure yet. There’s a lot subtlety on “Clairvoyant” of which only some has presented itself in the time I’ve had to listen to it. It’s a very mature album by a band that has come a long way in what seems like a short time.
1. Monochrome (Passive)
5. The Center
8. Return to Earth
9. Monochrome (Pensive)
Label: eOne Music