Album Review: The Contortionist – Clairvoyant

A contortionist is typically an individual who performs acts of extreme physical flexibility. Stretching, bending, and manipulating their bodies in ways most couldn’t fathom. Constantly pushing the boundaries of what we think are the boundaries dictated by their bodies. Much akin to this The Contortionist apply the same methods to their music. Never once sounding the same, and always striving for something new, essentially recreating themselves. The Contortionist have done this once again with their fourth full-length album, Clairvoyant. Over the span of their career, The Contortionist seem to reinvent themselves with each release. Beginning with a progressive metalcore/deathcore sound and evolving into the more progressive rock sound of today. Clairvoyant is the first album in which vocalist Michael Lessard has ditched all screams, in favor of matching a full clean sung album to match its softer, atmospheric sounds. Regardless of losing some of their past heaviness, Clairvoyant is one of the groups most imaginative records to date.

[tw-toggle title=”About The Contortionist”]
Genre: Progressive Rock | Progressive Metal
Label: Entertainment One U.S.
Release: September 15, 2017
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Purchase: iTunes | Google Play

Starting out the album is “Monochrome (Passive)”, an epic five minute long instrumental track. The song has ups and downs of intensity and melody, and slight tinges of electronics strewn throughout for a wonderful touch of ambiance. Leading to the end of the track there’s a beautiful sound reminiscent of stringed instruments of soaring guitars and drumming, then to finish it all off, the track calms right down with a soft an harmonious ending.

“Godspeed” is a perfect track to begin to show you that The Contortionist have once again (metaphorically speaking) stretched, bent, and manipulated their musical boundaries as to recreate how we perceive them. This track has all of what makes a straight up rock song fantastic, but stirred in with the perfect elements of prog (intricate drumming, mixed time signatures, added ambient elements). Towards the end of the song there’s even a synthesized keyboard thrown into the mix, which harmonizes with the other instrumentals so wonderfully, the song would be lesser for not having it.

“Reimagined” was the first single released off the album, and aside from the fact that the song is one of the greatest that The Contortionist have ever released, the title is fitting as that’s exactly what the group has done with their sound yet again. Starting out a simple yet strong pairing of drumming and bass work, Lessard’s soft vocals flow over the instrumentals harmoniously. Although the chorus doesn’t ramp up much in volume or heaviness, it still has such an impact with incredible musicianship, stellar singing, and incredible musicianship. This was a perfect choice as an initial single, as ii whole-heartedly peaked any and all’s interest to hear else The Contortionist had in store.

Title track, “Clairvoyant”, has some of the heaviest moments on the record. Hard plucked bass, heavy-hitting drumming, and a much more technical mix of guitars, this song has more than enough elements to satiate the fans of the heavier The Contortionist of ‘ol. In saying that, they did not forget to add in the ambiance that is so perfectly prevalent on the entire record. Sitting at almost eight minutes in length, this song is anything but boring. Then again, that’s never a word that one could associate with a group like this. A group and song such as this are the absolute epitome of progressive.

“Absolve” was the second single released, and it is perhaps one of the more simpler songs The Contortionist have ever released (for them). That’s not meant in a negative way in any shape or form. The song is beautifully simplistic. Easy to follow melodies, a rhythm one could tap their feet to, and Lessard’s singing has almost never sounded better (especially during the chorus). For those unfamiliar with the band, this could be a perfect introduction to who the band is today. The final bridge leading up to the end of the song has an incredible synthesizer solo, that once again perfectly accentuates everything else going on in the song. If those synthesized riddled groups from the 80’s did it like this, more would still be around today.

Listening to the track “Return To Earth” you almost feel like you actually could be floating way up high above the planet, looking down. The spacey elements of the song fit the title perfectly. At times Lessard’s vocals are slightly muted, almost as if he was singing through an astronauts helmet. There’s even slight touches of auto tune which in fact don’t sound cheesy, but add to the overall feel of the track.

Rounding out the album is the monolithic in length, “Monochrome (Pensive)”. Reflective of the intro track, its ebb and flow is perfectly executed. Riddled with incredible synthesized ambience, it’s predominantly an instrumental track until the vocals kick in at almost three minutes. The song progressively builds up, taking you on a fantastic final musical journey with The Contortionist, until its sudden and epic culmination.

The Contortionist is one of those rare groups that can alter their sounds (albeit not in a super drastic way) from album to album without losing who they’ve always been. It’s basically what their name represents, and they’ve executed it perfectly once again on Clairvoyant. The whole record keeps true to the progressive roots from which the band originated, but journeys more into the softer realms only slightly touched upon with previous releases. Although the group of somewhat toned down some of the edgier side of their music they have not lost any of the intensity or interest. With Clairvoyant, the group will be able to reach a much broader audience, opening up the opportunity for more to experience the beautiful art that is The Contortionist.

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