Based out of Indianapolis, Indiana, progressive metalists The Contortionist draw from influences as diverse as Meshuggah, Dream Theater, Isis, Rush, and Pat Matheny. After their formation in 2007, and a few lineup changes, the band settled on a quintet of guitarist Robby Baca, guitarist Cameron Maynard, drummer Joey Baca, vocalist/keyboardist Jonathan Carpenter, and bassist Christopher Tilley. This group put out two highly touted albums; “Exoplanet” in 2010 and “Intrinsic” in 2012. In 2013 more lineup changes hit the band. Jonathan Carpenter left and was replaced by Last Chance to Reason’s Mike Lessard. A new standalone keyboard player was added in Eric Guenther. Christopher Tilley has also since left. His replacement is former Scale the Summit bassist, Jordan Eberhardt. With all the recent changes, one might not know what to expect from their soon to be released third album, “Language,” via eOne Music / Good Fight Music on September 16, 2014.
Starting out with ‘The Source,’ we get an early feeling that this record is going to be different. Lessard’s breezy clean vocal over acoustic guitars and keyboards leads us into the next two connected tracks, ‘Language 1: Intuition’ and ‘Language 2: Conspire.’ The mellowness of the opener continues on ‘Intuition,’ with Joey Baca laying down intricate rhythms underneath. ‘Conspire’ heavies it up a bit with a tight start/stop guitar/drum riff combo and some ferocious vocals. The song soon melds into a combination of the two previous elements; heavy yet light, brutal but airy. ‘Intuition’ gets a little groovy, letting Eric Guenther show off his skills on the keyboard. ‘Thrive’ brings back a little bit of heavy, but is still clean and smooth. ‘Primordial Sound’ reminds me of the title track from the new Cynic record, with its clean vocal and rolling melodies. The entire record reminds me a lot of “Kindly Bent to Free Us,” only heavier. ‘Arise’ and ‘Ebb & Flow’ push forward with twisted rhythms, wavy riffs, and Lessard going back and forth between clean and growling vocals. ‘The Parable’ closes things out with a slow boil. All instruments and voices build to crescendo point, and then cut to a spoken word fade out.
Ebb and flow is a reoccurring theme throughout most of the songs on “Language” and it perfectly describes the overall vibe of the album. The Contortionist still gives us all the warped time signatures, percussive mathematics, and spider-fingered fretwork as before, but on “Language” they give us something more. The song concept and structure, as well as sound quality, are superior to any of the band’s previous releases. I am not sure if the change in sound on “Language” is due to an overwhelming influence from Mike Lessard, or if it was a natural progression. Either way, I can’t wait to see what direction The Contortionist goes next.