Album Review: The Contortionist – Language

I’m excited to write about this one. I’ve been meaning to share with you all my experiences listening to this absolutely beautiful album after I first heard them live earlier this year. But as most things in my life, time gets the better of me, and months later I’m left asking myself “Why haven’t I gotten around to this yet?” Now that I’ve seen The Contortionist for the second time in a few months, I will not let their latest album “Language” slip through the cracks again. It deserves so much more.

the contortionist live
Photo by Wikimedia

Indiana progressive/technical death metal band The Contortionist are easily one of the greatest finds of the year for me. With three albums released, I’ve explored the different shades of metal between each album. Heavily influenced by the chugging guitar rhythms of djent in previous albums, The Contortionist does not let that sound define their careers, as much more is going on behind the scenes in later albums. Using melodic soundscapes and layered clean vocal arrangements, their latest album “Language” provides the listener with a unique listening experience, and in my opinion better than anything they’ve released in the past. Although I enjoyed their previous album “Intrinsic” as well, “Language” is lightyears ahead, demonstrating the maturity and evolution of their sound.

Now where did this sudden maturity come from? One could argue that it was the recruiting of former Last Chance To Reason singer Michael Lessard, whom some can recall my absolute awe over this guy in a live setting. If his voice was really that tremendous in a live setting, then one can imagine it in a studio setting. Just listen to the first two tracks “The Source” and “Language I: Intuition” and tell me this guy can’t sing. I’d call you a liar on the spot! His lyrical delivery is poetic, using fragmented narratives relating to the overall theme of language and love. The closing lyrics of “The Parable” are tongue-twisting but ambitious:

“And the truth is, I couldn’t love you more than I have come to know… / You are the perceiver, that perceived the parable, the never ending end / You are the infinite, you are the finite, you are.”

Toning down the “metal” on this album helps to spotlight Lessard’s dramatic voice, something that fans of their older material may not necessarily like. I feel these moments are some of the album’s greatest, though, as it contrasts to the downright brutal sections in songs like “Language II: Conspire” and “Integration.” The entire album is one big ebb and flow, rolling tides of sonic beauty.

Or perhaps it was the inclusion of keyboard Eric Guenther, who provided The Contortionist with something it was lacking in prior albums? Emotionally present keyboards are heard throughout this album, which felt pushed back in prior albums. Listening to the spaciness of “The Parable,” I couldn’t recall too many passionate moments like this in any of their prior albums. Could it be the overall musical growth of the band as a whole? I feel I’m listening to an entirely different band when listening to “Language,” a band that’s grown and found the sound they’ve been meaning for all along. There is so much depth within every song musically and lyrically, I literally feel moved by each hit of the cymbal and strum of the guitar. All it takes is that opening delayed riff of “Language I – Intuition” for me to start jiving to this album. With equal parts melody and technicality, “Language” is like the perfect combination of peanut butter and chocolate of a Reese’s cup (or whatever candy bar’s you prefer).

Photo by Altpressthe contortionist

Recruiting the services of master mixer Jamie King (known for his work on bands like Between the Buried and Me and Native Construct) serve this album well. The transgressions of their prior albums’ sound quality are forgiven in the striking aura of “Language.” The subtle hints of keyboard arrangements in the songs “Thrive” and “Ebb & Flow” are completely necessary, while the massive sounding drums on “Language II: Conspire” add to the song’s heaviness and the album’s integrity. Even the heaviest of sections cut straight to the core, and are built upon by various sound effects and layered instruments. Everything on this album simply feels better to the listener, especially when enjoying the sounds on higher quality headphones. And that’s the most important characteristic an album should have.

The Contortionist’s “Language” is a stunning composition, and will be a tough act to follow for whatever they release next. If I were to have one complaint about this album, though, is I feel “Language” is front-heavy, consisting of their best songs within the first half of the album. Nonetheless, this album shows a band hitting their stride, perfecting upon their sound. For fans of any form of metal, especially bands like Animals as Leaders, Periphery, Scale The Summit, and Cynic, I urge you to check out “Language.” You can support The Contortionist by following them on their Facebook and Twitter pages for band updates. They are currently touring with TesseracT across the United States, which I will have the pleasure of seeing tonight! Stay tuned for a full concert review in the coming days.