Much like Knives Exchanging Hands, The Contortionist opts for a more ambient quality to the sound amidst their aggressive musical assault, creating a more eclectic and experimental sounds than the usual fare. With their sophomore album, Exoplanet, The Contortionist continues to refine their sound again and again in order to further distinguish themselves from the deathcore stereotype.
Exoplanet is a retooling of their previous outing, Apparition, so about three or four songs repeat themselves in different ways. However, Exoplanet begins with “Primal Directive,” a completely new song that serves to give the listener a slight hint as to what expect. Distorted guitars and guttural growls begin the song, before erupting into a clean sung section and later a jazz interlude. Already The Contortionist has shown a progression by beginning this album with a more progressive song rather than an atypical deathcore sound like “Infection” did with Apparition. The second song, “Flourish,” begins with the same great intro that “Eyes: Closed” did with a few twists i.e. at certain points in the breakdowns a small electronic beat or bass lead can be heard in the background. Or at other sections a clean section is implemented, elevating the song one step up from what it was on Apparition.
In fact, every other song on Exoplanet that was influenced by Apparition features similar changes that do more to enhance the songs. “Expire,” a retread of “Infection,” features synthesized vocals at certain parts of the breakdowns. “Advent,” from “Realms,” features higher shrieks from the vocalist at certain ambient sections which actually serve to enhance the song overall. Finally, “Oscillator,” of the same name, plays generally at the same clip as its predecessor; however the better production value for Exoplanet allows us to see the drummer’s true talent here, especially during the lead solo near the end of the song.
However, on the non-Apparition songs we hear a newer progressive side of The Contortionist. On “Contact,” a heavily jazz influenced intro takes over the guitar lead, which gives the song an uplifting feel before the vocalist comes in with a heavy growl, showing The Contortionist experimenting with dynamic switches in their music. “Vessel” showcases the band’s much more schizophrenic and melodic side, with a vocal distortion effect layered on top of a solo before falling back down into a breakdown. Melodically, the end of the song features prominent work by the guitarists. It must be said though, that The Contortionist’s bassist is quite talented, ably being able to keep up with the guitars during the solos as well as adding needed features at certain junctures in all the songs.
Where Exoplanet truly shines is near the end of the album, the three part self titled song. “Egress” starts with an acoustic intro with excellent bass work and clean sung vocals before breaking down into an aggressive metal sound with ambient parts in the background. “Void” is artistically a representation of the formation of the Earth, so the whole song is a violent, chaotic affair bordering on grind at certain sections. While it isn’t necessarily bad, it ends up being the weakest song on Exoplanet, until realization that it’s meant to be a violent intro of sorts to the final song “Light.” Abruptly ending the violence of “Void,” “Light” starts with a very somber and slow acoustic introduction. Suddenly, it morphs back into full on deathcore, startling the listener again before finally ending in quiet with what seems to be the sound of a ray of light, poetically resembling the future of both this new Exoplanet as well as for The Contortionist.
Simply put, this album is superb. All the elements fit into place neatly, the guitars implement a wide range of jazz and melody into the solos, the breakdowns are used appropriately, the drums keep up a fantastic rhythmic section as well as enhancing the guitar solos, and the bass adds much more variety to the songs. Couple that with the ambient and spacey sections of the music, and you have a great deathcore album. To quote my introduction from my review for Apparition, “The Contortionist are doing something right, something that goes beyond just being a stellar metal album, it ends up being a great record overall.”