When last we left The Contortionist, the band had released their
sophomore album "Intrinsic," had their lead vocalist Jonathan Carpenter abruptly quit the band and enlisted Last Chance
to Reason vocalist Michael Lessard to fill in. Lessard then joined TC and put
LCTR on the back burner. So what would TC's third album have in store for listeners? "Intrinsic" was a quantum leap from their very impressive debut album "Exoplanet." Could they make the same leap or at least maintain the momentum of that last record? The answer is a resounding "YES!" The leader of the band that created
the foundation of those first two albums is still in place, Robby Baca can still write amazing riffs and the rest of the band is as tight as ever. Their sound at times is part Monuments or TesseracT, but the bigger influence that comes through on "Language" is Cynic,
both vocally and musically with their jazz metal foundation. And you can't go wrong with those bands as
The last song on "Intrinsic" was the
Zen-like "Parallel Trance," so the fact that "Language" kicks off with its own calm and serene opener, "The Source," carries a sort of continuity between the releases. From there, the two-part title track takes over. It's a nearly ten-minute (total) epic which has Mike Lessard singing more peacefully in the first part
and a harsh harmony vocal in the chorus that reminds me very much of Cynic, especially the "Traced
in Air" period. "Language - Part 2" is more
aggressive and shows the twisted, shape-shifting riffs that seem to give the band their name. Lessard makes you forget about anyone before him as he effortlessly goes from harsh vocal to strong clean vocal on this track.
And it's that range of vocals Mike uses,
mainly a calm, peaceful tone on songs like "Thrive" and the first single "Primordial Sound." But he has an excellent harsh vocal and because he picks his spots with it, it makes the vocal more powerful when he does. "Arise" builds to the moment when he uses that vocal. He also has a third vocal "weapon": his strong clean vocal which is prominent on the epic closing track "The Parable." It gives the lyrics an added urgency - you can FEEL what he is singing.
not a concept album but it is a conceptual album. The lyrics have themes that
recur throughout the album. "Drift with the ebb and flow." The
Contortionist might be inventing philosophical progressive metal with each album
they release. They join bands like The Faceless, who tackled "self-worship" on
their last album, and Monuments (who I think TC has a lot in common with musically) who released "The Amanuensis" about the Samsara. I won't even try to explain these weighty topics, but it's nice to see another younger progressive metal band like The Contortionist have intelligent lyrics. Musically, the band is better than ever. They've added a "full-time" keyboardist in Eric Guenther, which gives these songs an added dimension of texture and color they really need.
The Contortionist are back and better than ever. Hopefully they will get the attention and success they deserve. It's nice to see an American prog
metal band not copying fellow Americans Dream Theater, Between the Buried and Me or Periphery. I can't wait to see what's next from this band.