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Review: The Contortionist – “Clairvoyant”

Release date: September 15, 2017
Rating: outstanding (4)

Line-up:

Michael Lessard – vocals
Robby Baca – guitar
Cameron Maynard – guitar
Joey Baca – percussion
Jordan Eberhardt – bass
Eric Guenther – keyboards

I am the type of person who listens to black metal while studying. I am also the type of person who falls asleep to Swallow The Sun. But from time to time, I am like everyone else: I’m craving calm, balanced music, and that’s the kind of music The Contortionist, one of the greatest prog bands on the market, have been offering for the last couple of years. If you aren’t familiar with The Contortionist, note that this band’s style pretty much went from a quite balanced mix of prog rock, djent and deathcore to almost meditative post-rock and fusion in less than ten years. Someone even commented on one of The Contortionist’s music videos saying that their new material feels very soothing for people who struggle with anxiety.

The Contortionist still play progressive music of course, but ever since their third record “Language” released in 2014, it seems as if they have found a niche they enjoy and to which they will probably stick for the future. While there still were some djent and deathcore elements to be found on that album, things have changed a little with “Clairvoyant” – the harsh vocals have completely disappeared and even though there are some heavier parts, they can’t really be compared to The Contortionist’s djent/deathcore past.
One thing I often dislike about progressive bands is how they try to include every single idea they might have had during songwriting without considering if those different elements are in tune with each other. The Contortionist, on the contrary, have been establishing a more simplified approach to songwriting, and have perfected the art of writing songs that flow perfectly from beginning to end and into each other from the first to the last track. That is why discussing every track individually wouldn’t make any sense – you really have to listen to the whole record to understand it. Some beautiful songs, however, are “Godspeed”, “Reimagined” and “Absolve”.
Additionally, I can’t stress enough what great of a vocalist Michael Lessard is. It is not only his ability to change from soft head voice singing to pig squeals that makes him special, but also the fact that he sounds absolutely flawless live. He really has full control over his voice and I particularly enjoy how he incorporates his r’n’b influences into his vocals. On “Clairvoyant”, he dispenses with harsh vocals, though, and to be honest, I do believe that giving up the harsh vocals wasn’t the best idea. I see, however, where The Contortionist wanted to go with this record and that such vocals just wouldn’t fit into the musical concept of “Clairvoyant”.
Another aspect that could be seen as a downside to this record in general is the fact that it flows to the point where it lacks a certain surprise effect. Or, in other words, you could be listening to “Clairvoyant” and there probably wouldn’t be any kind of “WTF!” moment. Of course, a record shouldn’t be solely based on those moments, but a little surprise here and there would be welcome on this particular one. Having Lessard’s whole vocal spectrum would probably enable a more extreme sound dimension to the record and make it even more interesting and enjoyable.

Other than that, I can’t think of anything negative. Just keep in mind that if you are looking for tech metal and djent, The Contortionist isn’t the band to offer you that kind of style of music anymore. Apart from that, I believe that this album can make you happy: It is great at calming you down, and to top it all, it will satisfy any progressive music freak’s need for extraordinary music.

Tracks:
01. Monochrome (Passive)
02. Godspeed
03. Reimagined
04. Clairvoyant
05. The Center
06. Absolve
07. Relapse
08. Return To Earth
09. Monochrome (Pensive)

New tracks worth checking out: July 2017

The Contortionist – Absolve
Ah, The Contortionist. I still remember listening to them for the very first time when I received the promo for their 2014 release Language. Already one minute in, I knew that I would adore that album, and I still do. It is safe to say that The Contortionist are amongst the most exciting acts in progressive music, and they continue to please their fans with this new track. “Absolve” is the second track off The Contortionist’s new record Clairvoyant out on September 15. Same as on Language, they continue to play intricate, yet very calming, ethereal music. Trust me, you need this band in your life, and you definitely need to throw this new track onto your playlist.

Hallatar – Mirrors
Hallatar’s debut album No Stars Upon The Bridge is one of my most anticipated releases of 2017. Equally, I was really excited to listen to the first song off the new record. The band is featuring Juha Raivio of Swallow The Sun, Gas Lipstick of HIM and Tomi Joutsen of Amorphis, so if you know these bands, you probably can imagine how “Mirrors” might sound like. It is the darkest shade of dark, powerful, and, similarly to Juha Raivio’s previous project Trees Of Eternity, hauntingly beautiful.

Arch Enemy – The World Is Yours
Unlike many other Arch Enemy fans, I am really happy with the band’s new work with vocalist Alissa White-Gluz. She brings her own influences as an artist into the band while trying to stick to the classic Arch Enemy style without sounding fake. After the last album War Eternal, the first one with White-Gluz, Arch Enemy is about to release their new, highly anticipated album Will To Power and “The World Is Yours” is the first taste of the new record. There is not a lot to say about Arch Enemy, only that they deliver every single time, period.

Ne Obliviscaris – Intra Venus
Ne Obliviscaris is one of those insanely good bands that everyone and their mama lose their minds when they announce anything new. Long ago, the Australian prog band released the first track off their new record URN due in October. People lost their minds. I lost my mind.
One thing I have always loved about this band is that despite the fact that very instrument has a place to shine, the music never sounds overdone or too much. These guys probably just can’t write bad songs. However, let’s wait for the entire record and for now, we can enjoy this beautiful new track called “Intra Venus”.

2017’s most impressive releases so far – Part 2

Some of you might look at this short list and ask themselves “Where is all the heavy stuff?”. Well, a little while ago, I introduced part 1 of this series with the fact that I haven’t had much time to listen to a lot of music in 2017 because of different reasons, and when I did, I have almost always been opting for “softer” music.
Two of the next albums have been accompanying me during most parts of this spring – can you guess which ones?

Kobra And The Lotus – Prevail I
Release date:
May 12, 2017
Having always been skeptical about artists who seem self-publicizing or too concerned about their looks, I avoided Kobra And The Lotus for quite some time. Frontwoman Kobra Paige looked as if she could fit into the aforementioned category of musicians; however, after listening to the latest album by the Canadian band, I learned that she is a gifted vocalist and as I watched some interviews with her, I concluded that she has to be a genuinely nice and down-to-earth person. This is probably another typical case of “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Also, shout out to a female in the metal genre that is not a soprano – middle-ranged ladies and altos are way too underrepresented in the metal scene. In a world full of Sharons, Tarjas and Elizes, we need more Kobras!
Prevail I has been growing on me with every new listen: It has the right punch to it despite being full of hits. It also feels a lot fresher than Kobra And The Lotus’ previous releases. Some of the most outstanding songs are the opener “Gotham”, “Triggerpulse” and the semi-ballad “Light Me Up”.

Imminence – This Is Goodbye
Release date:
March 31, 2017
I would say that I normally don’t listen to “this kind” of music, but that would be bullshit. I listen to whatever works for me, and even though this new type of core music is not what I generally opt for, I genuinely enjoy Imminence’s new record This Is Goodbye. It is true that they have changed their style quite drastically; however, both styles, namely classic metal-/deathcore and modern melodic/alternative rock/metal, suit them very well. If this is what a band wants to do, why not?
This Is Goodbye is basically a record that has been written with a broken heart: There are quite a few songs on here that express feelings of sadness, loss, heartbreak, and chagrin. Nonetheless, all tracks are memorable and full of energy.This record soothes the listener and makes him want to party at the same time. “Energetic” is also a term to describe Imminence’s live shows: The Swedes give everything on stage and especially vocalist Eddie Berg is one of the most enthusiastic frontmen I have ever seen live. And to top it all, he even produces all of Imminence’s music videos, and he’s doing a fantastic job.
It is fair to say that I have been playing this record on repeat ever since I bought it at one of their shows as support for annisokay. Also, have I mentioned that these guys are some of the nicest dudes I have ever met? I have never been hugged so much in one single evening. Anyways, if you are into great melodies and don’t mind a little electronic action alongside with guitars and a little cheesiness, give This Is Goodbye a listen. Favorite tracks: “Coming Undone”, “Broken Love” and “Cold As Stone”.

Soen – Lykaia
Release date:
February 3, 2017
When I reviewed this record for progressivemusicplanet.com, I remember liking two songs off Lykaia a lot and the rest sounded rather mediocre to me. Despite that and the fact that Soen sound way too perfect for my taste, I have still being coming back to this album. And now, as I am listening to Lykaia again, I do like it more than a couple of months ago. So that’s why I had to mention it as part of this list. Unmistakably influenced by Opeth and Tool, Soen created an atmospheric and dynamic prog rock record and even added some elements of world music. In my review, I wrote as a conclusion that you should give this record several listens so you could “discover the colors that I tried and failed to find”. Slowly, but steadily, it seems that these so-called colors I tried to find in Lykaia are finally revealing themselves to me.

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