Between the Buried and Me
Last Chance to Reason
LabelGood Fight Music
2. Feedback Loop
4. Sequential Vision
5. Geocentric Confusion
6. Dreaming Schematics
7. Anatomy Anomalies
10. Parallel Trance
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If you paid any attention to progressive metal within the last couple of years, you surely heard the name The Contortionist floating around. Their debut record, Exoplanet, sent a shockwave through several metal communities, resonating mostly with younger fans but displaying a maturity hardly seen on a band’s first full length. It was a deathcore record whose magnitude could have been mistaken for that of something released years earlier, when the genre’s staples were crafted. Returning from several successful tours supporting bands like Periphery and All Shall Perish, the group has a renewed concept of maturity and a fresh spin on their old style. Channeling Cynic, prolific musician Brian Eno, and metaphysical literature, Intrinsic comes back down to Earth and questions what’s beyond our consciousness. Beyond lofty concepts, however, the album is concerned with providing a sophisticated mix of prog rock, fusion, and forward thinking metal, something it does with ease.
Immediately the differences between both albums are recognized. While Exoplanet begins with bludgeoning dissonance, Intrinsic opens with Jonathan Carpenter’s subdued singing hanging over top complex harmonies and a controlled atmosphere. It takes a little over a minute for harsh vocals to enter the fray, something that lasts merely 25 seconds before immediately reverting back to the song’s softer side. The mid-section of the tune is made up of a wonderful unison turned polyrhythm until the final build and the subsequently crushing outro. Only six minutes in and it’s easy to tell that these records are worlds apart. It’s no wonder that “Holomovement” opens the album, as it introduces the extreme of the band’s updated sound. The third track, “Causality,” is the album’s first stunner. Leading the listener to wade through weighty, atmospheric moments only 20 seconds in, the melodic content continues to grow, completely outweighing the metal riffing in the intro. Carpenter’s simplistic vocal layering and vocoder usage, combined with the dual guitar prowess of Robby Baca and Cam Maynard create one of the record’s most sublime moments. Fluid and constant tapping over a slower chord progression gives the illusion of floating, and this isn’t the first or last instance of such a feeling. A blazing guitar run leads out of the tapping, relieving all tension and firing the listener into the middle of an absolutely beautiful lead at Maynard’s hands. Though made up of only four or five individual notes, the different permutations of the motif are swift, subtle, and achingly perfect.
Impossibly heavy moments, visceral melodies, and complexity that doesn’t beckon for attention continue to be the highlights of the record. “Geocentric Confusion” combines these three traits to excite fans both old and new, weaving in and out of every niche with an ease that even veteran bands can have trouble with. The fusion passages are perfectly layered, the heavy bits punishing and sludgy, and combinations of both simply breathtaking. The breakdown, for instance, is a remarkable example of tension and elicits an unavoidable motion into the song’s climax. Sentimental and dreamy, the final portion of the song is driven by the holy trinity of acoustic guitar, piano, and Carpenter’s newly found singing ability to produce something otherwordly. “Dreaming Schematics” continues the expert combination of the album’s styles, yet focuses mainly on organic riffing that makes its lead out so grand. “Anatomy Anomalies” and “Solipsis” do the same, providing listeners with the band’s heavy as worlds playing amidst a stellar background.
A band’s second release is often the true test of their abilities and Intrinsic more than proves that The Contortionist is inundated with talent. Beyond their ability to produce low-end might or the space-age concepts they sing about, however, is the band’s growth and redirection of their sound. There’s no question that Intrinsic will have tremendous replay value alongside its predecessor, meaning that the band is gearing up for an all-star catalog to call their own. Now with that said, let’s hear number three!