The Contortionist seems to be getting more experimental and progressive (literally) with each release. Starting out as a traditional (aka generic) deathcore band self-releasing two EPs, the second one which is actually pretty good, then coming out with a “progressive deathcore” album as their debut full-length, Exoplanet. After releasing this, they hit the road with Periphery and Textures which caused their fan base to EXPLODE in both numbers and in anticipation for new material. Now, The Contortionist is in a similar position that bands like Periphery, Animals as Leaders, and Iwrestledabearonce were in: being VERY big, having only one album under their belts, and about to release one of the most anticipated albums of the year (yes, quite literally true for all of the bands I just listed).
Like I said before, The Contortionist are getting more experimental and progressive with each release. The reason I say that is because the content of this album is so fucking complex that it’s taken me a little over a month to fully be able to swallow and dissect it all. Yes, that’s the magnitude of the complexity this record contains. Although I’m a major fan of progressive music (metal, rock, industrial, etc.), even this was too much for me at first. When it comes to progressive DEATH metal, my favorites tend to be Opeth (well, duh, they’re my favorite band EVER), Augury, Fallujah, Augury, and Between the Buried and Me. Some of those (especially Augury and Between the Buried and Me) have a VERY high amount of complexity to their music. But really, The Contortionist really takes the cake with Intrinsic by not only being the most experimental and complex album of the year, but being the most experimental death metal album since Iwrestledabearonce released It’s All Happening in 2009.
I’ve gotten to the point to where the word “deathcore” doesn’t fit anywhere in The Contortionist’s music; they seemed to have completely stepped away from that obvious phase in their career in one of the smoothest and most graceful manners possible. It’s almost as if they already had this all planned out. They knew that they didn’t want to play deathcore; they wanted to CREATE, they wanted to INVENT, they wanted to ADD something to this! So they created a deathcore album with an extremely progressive Opeth-like sound to start the drift away without upsetting any of their fans. Now that they’ve gotten the “progressive” aspect buried within every element of their music, they were set to do what they’ve apparently always wanted to do, which is laid out in Intrinsic. But then again, this is all just critical thinking on my part, I don’t know for sure if any of this is fact; but I sure as hell wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest bit if it was!
The only negative thoughts that I have towards this album is the difficulty to describe its sound without simply saying “just listen to it, that’s how it fucking sounds”. For me, after the utterly atmospheric intro track, the action TRULY starts with Feedback Loop, which is a song that can only be described with phrases like “fucking weird”, “um…ok…I don’t know what I just heard…but I love it” and “what was THAT??”. When those weird keyboards kicked in after the song started, I had to start the whole song over due to not only my surprise, but the chaotic confusion all of the…I don’t know what to call it…all of the “stuff” that went on caused within my mind. Usually, in progressive albums like this, I can point out some pieces that were obviously inspired. For example, I’m ASSUMING that the use of the vocoder in Feedback Loop was inspired by The Faceless’ use of it in Planetary Duality, some of the guitar riffs remind me strongly of Periphery, and that the numerous acoustic guitars hidden in the background were POSSIBLY inspired by Opeth. But that’s pretty much it! There’s next to no other inspiration that I can hear, which means that most of this is coming from the minds of the members themselves. Progression made out of inspiration doesn’t last; progression made out of the minds of the creator(s) themselves changes music forever.
The singing obviously takes on a MUCH more prominent role in this album than before; which is probably because the singing is a hell of a lot better. Personally, I think that the growls and screams have decreased in quality since Exoplanet, which is possibly because they’re becoming less of a priority. Also, the melodic elements have COMPLETELY taken over the entity of the music. Along with the band getting more progressive with each release, I can also hear them getting more and more melodic with each record they put out. Because I’m someone that walks around listening to Katatonia’s newer albums wearing a Dying Fetus shirt, the fact that The Contortionist is getting more melodic isn’t a good or bad aspect for me in any way; it’s just change, nothing more and nothing less. The guitars don’t have a very crunchy distortion; in fact, they actually have a very generic clean extreme metal distortion that sounds perfect with everything around them. The drums sit in the background, but the kick drums stick out from everything else (which is probably the only remaining deathcore aspect in the band’s music).
Intrinsic is the single most progressive death metal record of 2012 and seems virtually impossible to surpass before the year comes to a close. I’ve said time and time again that 2012 is possibly the best year that the metal genre has ever seen; with Dying Fetus, Veil of Maya, Whitechapel, Nile, Periphery, Overkill, and countless others releasing perfectly-scored albums, Intrinsic is what I would say is one of the heavy metal HIGHLIGHTS of 2012. Although I don’t like this as much as others, I would give this one 18/20 for blowing me away with almost everything an album can blow me away with.