Out of all the established acts within the progressive and technical metal scenes, The Contortionist are never one to shy away from the spotlight of controversy. Whilst the Indiana sextet have always enjoyed the spoils of a dedicated fanbase since the release of their 2010 debut Exoplanet, the ever-shifting sound of the act has always been a topical point within their following, with the act losing and gaining new fans with each release and ever evolving sound.
Each one of their releases has seen the act move gradually away from their tech-laced deathcore roots, adapting and incorporating progressive and post-rock elements and shifting away from typical death and math core conventions as the years pass by. Thus, it feels almost inevitable the group have arrived at this now more traditionally structured and streamlined sound. It’s a far cry from their early days, with all growls, breakdowns and jarring time signature changes removed from the mix, but yet, Clairvoyant is The Contortionist at their most refined and filtered.
Opening the record is the instrumental ‘Monochrome (Pensive)’; a deceptive introduction containing doom-laden walls of sound that slowly give way to more airy, progressive melodies and keys. It’s these subtle, yet effective motifs that foreshadow the album and it’s respective ethereal and airy atmosphere, ambience, and the musical dynamic between metal tinged fretwork and melodic structures. Whilst the majority of the album caters to aforementioned and uniform conventional song structures and shuns forced complex time signatures and other now exasperated formulaic elements associated with the genre of the band’s past, Clairvoyant feels refined and pandered towards those seeking a more expunged experience.
Tracks such as the ‘Reimagined’, ‘Absolve’ and the title track ‘Clairvoyant’ are a perfect example of their direct blanketing focus on synth laced melodic ambience intertwined with slightly heavier riffs and leads. Yet, whilst the record primarily focuses on simplistic and more basic and traditional structures and conventions than it’s peers within the scene, there are moments of unprecedented innovation and animation. From the pounding darkened synthwave inspired introduction of ‘Relapse’ to the jarring bouncing riffs of ‘Return To Earth’, it’s these hidden moments that add variation colour and much needed energy and diversion to an album that chooses to take a more simplistic approach to a genre often seen as chaotic and erratic.
Despite this, one of the more dividing elements on the album will be Michael Lessard’s vocal output. Whilst their predeceasing 2014 album Language may have introduced us to Lessard’s diaphanous vocal talents following the departure of their previous vocalist, the narrow vocal range featured within the release fails to complement the delicately woven textured melodicism present. Undoubtedly, whilst the harsh growls and pitched screeching from their previous albums wouldn’t blend with the tracks on this release, there’s a level of narrowness, uniformity and flatness within the vocals that restricts some of the tracks from reaching their true potential. There are moments within the record that really require elevation and passion with vocals to strike the chord the group are aiming to connect with.
Clairvoyant may not connect with the diehard legion of the band’s past, or with members of the respective scene and circle wishing for something a bit more varied, unpredictable and volatile, this will most defiantly strike a chord with fans of progressive alternative music wanting something more ambient and celestial that doesn’t stray too far from familiar pastures of the scene. Whilst some may be disappointed with more lacklustre vocal efforts, Clairvoyant is the next logical step for The Contortionist and their ever evolving respective sound.