Review Summary: Contorting itself maybe just a tad too much.
The Contortionist is one of the few that showed to the world that Deathcore could be more than just an onslaught of dissonant breakdowns. In fact Exoplanet, while flawed, was the best Deathcore album up to this point, featuring wonderful ambient sections and build-ups that contrasted the heavy moments so well. Expectations were sky-high for Intrinsic. While the band does deliver for the majority of it, it’s maybe not in the way everyone expected/wanted.
The best thing the band could have done is add just a tad more melodic sections, reduce the number of breakdowns to make them more effective and not restraint themselves so much in the technical department. While that’s not false to say they did just that, they did so much of it that now they pretty much can’t be called a Deathcore band anymore. They’re now a full-on Progressive Metal band, sounding more like a mix of Between the Buried and Me and Cynic with a bit of Textures thrown in there. While the majority would think of that as a good thing, it unfortunately isn’t necessarily the case.
While Exoplanet lacked a bit of technicality that could have brought more life to some of the breakdown-laden heavier songs, it was admirable that a band so young would rarely (if ever) fall into self-indulgence; it showed that they could improve their established sound in the future. That isn’t the case here. At many times in the record you feel like nothing really happens. Sure, you now get how well the band plays their instruments, but that in itself doesn’t mean anything. The problem now is that there’s rarely a sense of groove and continuity. It all sounds good but it doesn’t connect together as well as it should. The best examples are the heavier sections, which often come out of nowhere; seldom bringing up the intensity but often breaking up an ambient section that could have built up until such heaviness would have been effective. The production is also a huge letdown. On Exoplanet, every instrument was distinguishable from the others and the overall sound was powerful. Here, it all sounds jumbled together, weak, and the ambient sections don’t fill the soundscape as much as they could.
However, the major advantage Intrinsic has over its predecessor is the lack of filler (as opposed to highlights with forgettable songs). Each song here has interesting sections, even if they don’t always connect too well. For example, ‘’Holomovement’’ has a surprising yet fitting heavy section, ‘’Dreaming Schematics’’ has an odd-timed and odd-sounding first verse that fits the overall vibe of the album perfectly and both ‘’Geocentric Confusion’’ and ‘’Cortical’’ end on relatively simple yet soothing melodic sections. There is not one song until ‘’Cortical’’ that I skip, and most albums have trouble doing that.
The other improvement is the vocalist/keyboardist Jonathan Carpenter. While his keyboard playing was a bit more subtle before, his vocals have improved immensely. The most obvious reason is that for this album he could write the vocal lines on music that wasn’t already written before he was in the band. As a result, he sounds way more confident and feels like an integral part of the band’s sound. His harsh vocals are also a lot more convincing this time.
Overall, Intrinsic is a great album. Intrinsic or Exoplanet? Exoplanet, because nothing here gives me the goosebumps that ''Flourish'' and ''Oscillator'' still give me after all the times I listened to them. I’ll always take incredible moments over overall enjoyment.