Warped time signatures, percussive mathematics, spider-fingered fretwork, dazzlingly atmospheric keyboards and immediately arresting vocals collide within THE CONTORTIONIST, who have achieved a career defining milestone with a “sophomore slump” defying feat of agility dubbed Intrinsic. The Indiana based prog-metal alchemists conjure the kinetic texture of RUSH, the cinematic musicality of DREAM THEATER, the heavy but heady metallic might of jazzy death wizards CYNIC and the studied experimental precision of BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME while simultaneously fashioning an overall sound uniquely their own.
In a short amount of time, THE CONTORTIONIST has enveloped audiences and nearly swallowed them whole. They’ve toured with a wide-ranging number of acts including PERIPHERY, ALL SHALL PERISH and THE ACACIA STRAIN. The band headlined the inaugural edition of the Summer Slaughter Survivors Tour, as well.
With their earliest self-released work, THE CONTORTIONIST remade the rules within emerging genres like “deathcore” and “djent” as they evolved beyond scenes and categories, even as they were integral enough to be instrumental in defining them. The band teamed with Ken Susi of UNEARTH for their marvelously refreshing, conceptually driven debut, Exoplanet. With album number two, THE CONTORTIONIST entrusted Eyal Levi (DAATH, JOB FOR A COWBOY) and Jason Suecof (TRIVIUM, DEVILDRIVER) to help them capture their at once complex yet defiantly easy-to-connect-with esoteric material, which shatters the boundaries of conventional heavy music note-by-virtuosic-note.
In popular culture we often hear space referred to as “The Final Frontier.” And while it’s true that the vast majority of our universe remains unknown and deserving of further study, much of the inner workings of human beings beg further contemplation and discovery. How wonderfully appropriate, then, that having delved into deep space with their expansive sound and contemplative narrative on the genre-challenging and wholly impressive Exoplanet, THE CONTORTIONIST turns inward with the stunningly mind-bending follow-up, Intrinsic.
Whereas the first album explored the idea of earth’s destruction following the inevitable collapse of our star and the ensuing search for an inhabitable planet to call home, Intrinsic dives deep inside the mind. Moving across several operatic sections, the record transports listeners on a journey through the apparent holographic reality we call “experience,” through our very consciousness and metaphysical archetypes. Toward the album’s conclusion the band ultimately imagines advancements in neuroscience that would broaden and challenge who we are. All of the music, of course, captures these themes.
Canadian thrash architects VOIVOD would surely be proud of the band’s science based subjects. Like IRON MAIDEN before them, THE CONTORTIONIST is the kind of band that can be enjoyed for the basest of reasons but can also send astute listeners running to the library, like all of the generations of people who wanted to read more about the origins of “The Flight of Icarus” or “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”
Lyrical inspiration and reference points came from a stack of research, which included books like Antonio Damasio's The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness and Simon Young's Designer Evolution: A Transhumanist Manifesto. Immediate standout cuts “Holomovement,” “Causality” (about a person having a near death experience brought on by an obsession with lucidity in dreaming and astral movement) and “Dreaming Schematics” (where scientific minds develop procedures to strengthen and multiply synaptic networks) are epics. These songs and the rest of the album’s material inspire food for thought and aesthetic pleasure in equal measure.
THE CONTORTIONIST continues to be a study in contrast. In their quietest, most ambient moments, the band is intimately melodic. Alternately their heavy parts are as alarmingly bombastic as possible. An emphasis on songwriting and structure has resulted in a series of musical journeys that are constantly climbing new summits. There is only one song on the album with anything like a “repeating chorus.”
At the same time, the band is always ever careful to tastefully balance technique with purpose. They aren’t shredding for shredding’s sake. Each section of every song is rooted in logic, meaning and reason.
THE CONTORTIONIST has succeeded at creating intelligently tasteful metal that is as memorable and melodic as it is creative and dynamic. Within their formula, a listener paying close attention is as likely to discover elements akin to MINUS THE BEAR as MESHUGGAH.
Just as different genre-pushing bands broadened their own minds, the men in THE CONTORTIONIST are happy to lead fans through the gateway of heavy music down pathways of new music and self-discovery. With fervent attention to every detail of their composition and presentation, the band’s future in the pantheon of heavy music is assured. Intrinsic is the next step in what will become a landmark catalog. THE CONTORTIONIST opens minds from within and without.