Few bands make such an impact in the metal community as The Contortionist did back in 2010 with their debut album Exoplanet, which fostered a well-executed relationship between chugs, breakdowns, melodies and post-rock influences. Exoplanet was well received by fans of the deathcore and prog communities alike. With their newest album, Intrinsic, The Contortionist shed their deathcore label to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Between The Buried And Me and Cynic.
Exoplanet was my top album of 2010 and sits as one of my favorite albums of all time, so it is safe to say I had high expectations for this album. Upon first listen, Intrinsic doesn’t hit you as forcefully as Exoplanet did. There are far less breakdowns and pit-inducing moments compared with previous efforts. Fans of the -core side of the band may not feel as comfortable with Intrinsic‘s more prog-oriented sound. While the earth-rumbling chugs still exist, they float amid a sea of prog-inspired riffs and spacey atmospheres.
The Contortionist have stepped out of familiar territory, trekking deeper into prog-space and experimenting with soundscapes, complex compositions and vocal effects. By comparison, the heavier sections pack more of a punch than they did on Exoplanet, serving as a flourish (not a crutch) to the bands new-found sense of direction and melody.
Vocalist John Carpenter shines throughout Intrinsic due to his involvement in the songwriting process this time around. He sounds more comfortable than he did on Exoplanet, where he was quickly filling an empty hole in the roster. Screams take a backseat to clean singing and mellow whisperings while the melodies are leagues ahead of those on Exoplanet. While not on the level of Tommy Rodgers, Carpenter’s presence is equally unique and powerful in its own right.
“Causality” stands strong as my favorite track on the album. It starts with the traditional Contortionist chug + harsh vocal combo, peaks with an excellent guitar solo, and ends with an ominous, yet uplifting, ethereal keyboard line. “Geocentric Confusion” and “Cortical” would seem right at home on Exoplanet.
The Contortionist have succeeded in pulling away from the pack to secure their spot as one of the strongest progressive acts around. Intrinsic has all the potential to become a prog classic, and by all rights should. Shock value has been traded in for substance in a move that will irk the -core fans, but it has ultimately led to a far superior album overall.
Undoubtedly, they will lose some fans with their more experimental approach, but the final product stands strong as one of the best metal albums of 2012.