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The Contortionist - Clairvoyant Award winner

The Contortionist
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 11 October 2017, 12:01 PM

THE CONTORTIONIST is a Progressive Metal sextet based out of Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. “Clairvoyant” is the bands fourth full-length album, and contains nine tracks. One of the best things about Progressive Metal, in my opinion, is how wide the genre boundaries are. You never know what you might expect, and most bands are not afraid to push these boundaries even further. From their Facebook page, they self-describe as “The Contortionist represents fearlessness in musical expression, designed to please artist as much as audience. This band makes progressive metal music, anchored in the heavy sounds that first drew the individual players to the stage, yet unmoored by convention or expectation.” That’s all the motivation I need to get started so let’s jump right in!

“Monochrome (Passive)” is the first track. There is a slow atmospheric build leading into the massive thud of the first set of guitar and bass notes. When the lead guitar comes into play, it established dissonance between the key of the chords. Your mind tells you it doesn’t connect but yet it is still fun to listen to. After that, the melody breaks in, like the sun peeking out from grey skies that eventually dissipate before your eyes. The rays begin to warm you and melt your troubles away. When it comes to “Godspeed,” the melodies rain all around you from the start. Michael Lessard’s pensive vocals are soothing in the satisfying way that you might experience from a band like RIVERSIDE or KARNIVOOL. The instrumentation underneath is tightly packed and ever-moving, like a well-oiled machine performing its assigned task. But don’t mistake this for sterility; indeed, it is very open, airy and breathing.

“Reimagined” has a dreamy sound that makes you feel elated, and deeply, like you are having an out of body experience or floating inside your head from a psychedelic substance you smoked or consumed. Warning: if you close your eyes it might sweep you away and out of your consciousness. The title track, “Clairvoyant” has a punchy rhythm, almost Djenting a bit, and reminds me of CALIGULA’s HORSE in some ways. The harmonies are very ethereal here and separate above the weighted bottom end like oil creating a layer above water. The swirl of keyboards and guitars taking the track to near completion are like colors mixing on a canvas, springing to life. “Absolve” uses a good deal of clean guitar notes that are bright, providing the perfect backdrop to the calming sounds of the vocals that could console someone in pain with its relaxing sound. Hankering for something a bit darker? “Relapse” fills this void. At first the keyboard notes pulse in alternating passages of 3/4 and 4/4 with an ominous approach, giving way to softer passages with piano, as well as some key changes. Keep your feet on the ground as the complexities and layers here can sweep you off your feet.

“Return to Earth” is aptly titled, as the outer world sound seems to be coming from somewhere outside of our earthly realm. The vocals are smooth and feathery, while the instruments trade off from heavy, thudding passages, and light, airy passages that are easy to cozy up to. It’s a very peaceful sound with easy listening melodies. “Monochrome (Pensive)” is the near ten-minute closing song. Right from the start it entices you with a pleasing and pretty set of guitar notes, with supporting background elements. When the vocals come in after a few minutes, they register with marked emotions. They do such a good job here of mixing all of these various sounds into a slurry that is blended in elegance.  The keys towards the end are beautiful as well.

On the Prog spectrum, “Clairvoyant” is on the more mellow and melancholy side. The tracks are rich with texture and layers, and they prefer to let the music breath and soak into you rather than a thousand notes per bar that could overwhelm. But don’t mistake this for lackadaisical musicianship by any means. You have to peel back the layers in your mind to really hear the way they are connected. Graceful but somber at times, it makes you feel the way you do curled up in a blanket on a cold, rainy day, with a good book and no one to bother you.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Monochrome (Passive)
2. Godspeed
3. Reimagined
4. Clairvoyant
5. The Center
6. Absolve
7. Relapse
8. Return to Earth
9. Monochrome (Pensive)
Robby Baca – Guitar
Michael Lessard – Vocals
Joey Baca – Percussion
Cameron Maynard – Guitar
Jordan Eberhardt – Bass
Eric Guenther – Keyboards
Record Label: eOne/Good Fight Music


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