Review Summary: The Contortionist are doing something right, something that goes beyond just being a stellar metal album, it ends up being a great record overall.
All great art has a purpose. That purpose doesn’t necessarily have to be a major message or theme; it can be something simpler such as an emotion or story. That’s why whenever the tired question comes up, “Art really has no definition, so why if I just draw a bunch of scribbles can it not be considered art?” the answer becomes obvious. That scribble holds no value or purpose, thereby making it worthless. In the case of Indianapolis band The Contortionist; their sophomore album portrays the story of an apparition as it goes through a cycle of possession, conversion, and self realization, all the while providing an amazing soundtrack to such a story.
Opening up with the track “Infection,” the apparition takes hold of its next victim, which at first provides a euphoric feeling before erupting into a violent frenzy. The Contortionist displays this by beginning with a soft piano introduction before breaking into a full speed guitar/drum assault. While inevitably being the weakest track on the album, this introduction does a stellar job of leading the listener into the next track “Realms.” The song’s progressive leaning introduction and subsequent ambient section helps imbue the listener with an image that the apparition is taking its host to a separate world where it came from. This world isn’t necessarily always beautiful, as it can schizophrenically switch from peaceful serenity to hostile aggression while sometimes blending both these feelings.
See what The Contortionist do that makes their otherwise lackluster breakdowns interesting is mixing it with either melodic or ambient passages to spice it up. And in the instances where the band employs a standard breakdown, they use it as a kind of bridge to lead up into grandiose melodic passages or some form of atmospheric section. “Eyes: Closed” provides a perfect example of this. Up until 2:25 of the song, it’s a cavalcade of aggression and breakdowns before completely transitioning into the album’s best instance of ambience. And just like the breakdowns, The Contortionist uses these ambient passages as another type of bridge to lead into more aggressive sections. And while the vocalist may use the standard low to mid range scream, his high scream in this section of “Eyes: Closed” really does add to the music, as it gives the song a sensation of desperation.
“Oscillator” marks a transition in the album’s sound as it becomes the last song to contain just straight up anger in its sound. Just like an oscillator, the song switches halfway through to an almost uplifting section as the host desperately decides whether to accept the change or fight it. The opening lyrics of the song provide an almost poetic example of this:
This is passion personified into a rage
that is ripping and tearing at my body and soul,
thus leaving me weak.
Once it ends, the instrumental track “Apparition” plays, which finally shows the host has accepted the change and is now an apparition, and experiences numerous emotions while doing it. The tracks use of multiple out-of-genre instruments such as xylophones and synthesizers creates a unique and dynamic sound, and almost ends up being the best track on the album.
However, that spot is taken by the album’s closer “Predator.” As the title suggests, the new apparition now sets off to find its next victim, which lends to the song a wave of emotions from hostility in the apparition’s hunt, to calmer sections reflecting doubt of why they are doing this, back to anger and so on. Musically the song flips between average deathcore chug fests, to melodic riffs, to Djent style sections, to ambient sections akin to “Apparition.”
To say this is one of the best deathcore albums out there is an understatement. The members of The Contortionist are doing something right, something that transcends just being a stellar metal album; it ends up becoming just a great record overall. I can’t guarantee that people who dislike deathcore will find this album to be as spectacular as I’ve described, but for anyone who likes deathcore and/or death metal, I highly recommend this album.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNzbGUt1jyg Link to the band’s instrumental track “Apparition.”