Review Summary: Melbourne metal act Contrive deliver a debut that gives no clue as to why they are still unsigned.
For a band attached to no record label whatsoever, Contrive have certainly crafted a debut with impressive production values. This should be no surprise when one scratches a little deeper under the surface however, and discovers that after the basic tracks were recorded in a Melbourne studio by the band themselves, they were sent off to Sweden and mixed together by renowned producer Fredrik Nordstrom, whose credits include the likes of Dimmu Borgir, Arch Enemy and metal kingpins Opeth. Now this information has been brought to light, the album’s overall production quality should seem perfectly reasonable.
Opener By Way of Choice
introduces a shredding riff supported by Andrew Haug’s pulsating drums. Lead singer Paul’s screaming vocals are crisp and impressive, and the song is a perfect example of the type of material prevalent on The Meaning Unseen
– hardnosed metal that’s tight and ruthless. Second track Prepare to Fall
repeats this sentiment and is certainly one of the tougher tracks on the album. Fellow head-bangers Shifting Focus
and closer Relate
add to the records overall intensity and cement this band as something of a hidden gem, as Australian metal acts of far more prominence seem mostly stunted by this kind of energy, or are too fixated following trends made famous in other parts of the world.
In fact, Contrive infrequently let their Australian heritage shine through in parts of the record, whether they acknowledge it or not. Paul’s clean vocals on the mostly subdued A Vigil for the Lost
certainly reveal a lazy Australian accent, something which occurs again on album highlight Beside Yourself
, although the killer chorus sounds reminiscent of more typical styles of modern metal. The band even try their hand at a cover of Communion
, a track originally performed by “Australian Metal Legends” Armoured Angel. With probably the most brutal riff on the album, it certainly pays great homage to a band I’ve otherwise never heard, yet Contrive’s obvious acknowledgement of their true heritage is something slightly endearing, and the track indeed stands well against the rest of the album.
The bass of Tim Stahlmann also stands well, shining brightly in A Vigil for the Lost
and the awesome title track, while drummer Andrew (who is more notorious for his position hosting metal program ‘Full Metal Racket’ on Australian radio network Triple J) performs Todoroki
, an instrumental piece comprised entirely of the Japanese style of drumming known as Taiko. The serenity of this piece is practically negated by following track Divided
however, which easily stands as the best track on the album. With great riffs, and crushing drums, it’s a terrific advertisement for the album’s sound and impressive production values.
And it’s these production values that do little to answer the question of why Contrive – who have supported the likes of Sepultura and Machine Head – are still virtually unknown outside of inner Australian metal circuits and fans of Andrew Haug’s radio program. Regardless, this debut is a consistently entertaining work, and certainly a grand effort in terms of sonic quality that should be sampled by any fan of hard-knuckled, good old fashioned metal. Don’t be fooled by the lack of studio support – The Meaning Unseen
is a great metal release and hopefully the first of many great releases by an ashamedly unknown act.