- Band / Artist The Contortionist
- Genre Progressive Metal
- Label Good Fight Records
- Year 2012
- Format Album
“Intrinsic” comes as the sophomore effort from Indianapolis based 5-man outfit, The Contortionist. The Contortionist features Jonathan Carpenter (vocals), Robby Baca (guitar), Cameron Maynard (Guitar), Joey Baca (drums), and Christopher Tilley (bass). “Intrinsic” is preceded by a debut full length, titled “Exoplanet” and 3 E.P.’s.
“Intrinsic” opens to the six and a half minute long “Holomovement”. The album opener nearly gives the listener a taste of what to expect throughout the album- Lush rich tones, scintillating lead work, memorable chord progressions, and atmospheric keyboard work, philosophical lyrics, monotonous drum-work, and mediocre bass-lines. The vocals deserve a special mention, because Jonathan Carpenter has exhibited so much potential than his counterparts from the brethren. Carpenter seems to have imposed a huge responsibility upon his shoulders given the direction the band is turning to. Nevertheless, he is yet to let down. The ambient keyboard notes, more or less present throughout the record, perform a duet with his pitch-perfect clean vocal delivery. Much credit is to be given to him for handling both the gutturals and the cleans with such élan. The entire album is constructed out of criss-crossing patterns. “Feedback Loop” opens with scathing basslines that promise a good-solid Deathcore assault, only to wade into sludgy pastures, with queer keyboard effects to top off the dissatisfaction. “Casualty” puts the band back on the track, if only for a limited period. The bridge section is beautifully painted with intricate guitar work by the duo of Robby Baca and Cameron Maynard. Clearly the two have built up their chops at an exponential rate, post-“Exoplanet”. “Sequential Vision” ruins the evanescent effect that the outro to “Casuality” has rendered the listener into, without fail. Nevertheless, the track finally allows drummer Joey Baca to have his moment. “Geocentric Confusion” comes as a breath of fresh air. With well written verses come smooth bass lines and mad drum work. The sudden shift in dynamics, from an upfront Deathcore number to spaced out guitar leads and well-articulated poetic lyrics- “Geocentric Confusion” gets it right at the first time, and stays right. Again, “Dreaming Schematics” does precious little to sustain that charm.
To state it in a single statement, “Intrinsic” lacks proper direction: Either the ambient segments are heaped together all at once, e.g. Parallel Trance, or the chugs and riffs are hoarded as one, e.g., Solipsis; past the first few tracks the album gets predictable, formulaic. While the bass-work may seem like mere syncopated handiwork, there are some sections on the album where Chris Tilley makes his presence felt, tying up that stray loose end where the complexity in the riffing patterns or the oddly positioned breakdown fails to impress. Joey Baca, fails to impress with his percussion work. Much of the time the man spent behind the drum-kit, on this album, seems to lack cohesion. It goes without mentioning that he is a musician worth his salt, just that he does not bring any surprises to the table like the rest of the members. “Cortical” is as good as the band gets. The track has a multifaceted feel to it. The laid back, atmospheric driven segments at the beginning enables the band to nail this track hard one’s mind. Reminiscent of Skyharbor in some parts, Carpenter amazes in his persistent alteration between soft, spoken, clean sung verses and guttural shrieks. The lead section in the bridge is another gem to look out for.
The band has broken out of the textbook mould followed by the dozens of Progressive Deathcore outfit. Make no mistake, there is no dearth of Deathcore elements, but it is obvious that the band has focussed much on the Progressive aspect of the song-writing process. The “Exoplanet” album in itself was a great record, setting a benchmark for the band and its sound. Surpassing that came quite easy; naturally it seems, but not completely without flaws. As a whole, the song structuring may sound a bit disoriented, which is obviously the melodic segments, the spaced out Proggy part clashing with the forced Deathcore influenced breakdowns and Technical Death inspired riifage. Ambition and skill in spades, but the lack of vision to execute it properly, is something that plagues the record- Incoherence, is the word.
This is not to persuade any fan to not indulge into the record. “Intrinsic” is a near perfect record which shall appeal to new and old listeners alike; just that the flaws become more and more visible with every time the record is spun. Considering the fact that the record had been constructed under the watchful eyes of industry-legends Jason Suecof and Eyal Levi, one would think that there would be no imperfections to chance upon. However, it is the little imperfections that make the record so much more accessible. The carefully sculpted lyrics seem to lend a helping hand in that matter, as well.. By attempting too hard to blend in all that they vouch for (Read: Too much Post Rock, and unnecessary riffs), the band has placed forth a decent Thinking Metalhead’s album, which meanders through the entire play-time, cluelessly.
Irrespective of the criticism, “Intrinsic” comes out as a personal favourite, ready to feature on the end-of-the-year- Top albums list, merely for the effort a two album old band took. Experimentations at this level are synonymous with a tried and tested war-horse like Between the Buried and Me- Perhaps “Intrinsic” may present itself as a list of DO’s and DON’TS of this genre. Then again, experimentation is an intrinsic trait for a band of The Contortionist’s nature (no pun intended, or was it?). But there needs to be a clear limit set in stone where the band must stop, lest they deviate from the path they started upon.
“Intrinsic”, thankfully evades a clear case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, but only, ONLY marginally doing so.
Arkadeep Deb, as of now is a 20 year old engineering student from Kolkata. When he’s not harmlessly trolling around or watching Two and a Half Men re-runs, he dabbles in all-things-Metal, Photography, Songwriting, Reviews, you name it. While building up his chops in guitar/ vocals as we speak, he’s doing his utmost to represent the genre he loves, protesting social-stereotyping and pigeon-holing of its followers and lending a patient ear to the beloved underground. His first tryst with Metal was 5 years ago, when one fateful day he popped a bootleg SLIPKNOT: SUBLIMINAL VERSES and LAMB OF GOD: ASHES OF THE WAKE split-record in the cd-tray. There has been no looking back ever-since.