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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Contortionist -- Exoplanet


After all that Coldplay, it sure is nice to get back to something heavy.  The Contortionist are a five-piece band from Indiana. Exoplanet is their debut album. Some people would label this music "deathcore" or "djent," but those terms aren't very apt.  Even "heavy" isn't quite apt for Exoplanet.  It is heavy, but for every moment of brutal intensity is a moment of beauty.  Sometimes these moments occur at the same time.
The six-minute "Flourish" is a great example of this--a microcosm of the entire album.

The song opens with some shredding leads and riffing and a rising but subtle keyboard, breaks down into heavy chugging and screaming, then explodes into a series of blastbeats. One minute down.  Then, set up by the sounds of computers and gears breaking down, another series of breakdowns occur, setting up a suddenly beautiful section featuring lovely, almost computerized vocals.  I never thought I would be okay with the use of a vocoder, but it's perfect any time it's employed on Exoplanet. The album is about the failed creation and attempt to populate a new planet, sometimes told from the perspective of the machines at work.  The mechanized, robotic lyrics actually enhance the emotion of the music, especially when tied into the more emotional, human ones.  The sung lyrics of "Flourish," "Endless motion/now the experience is long gone" come across quite well, and lead into an epically beautiful instrumental section that at the 4:09 point, turns brain-crushingly heavy.  That The Contortionist can blend such disparate elements together so well on only their first album bodes well for their future.
The incredible thing is, "Flourish" isn't even Exoplanet's most beautiful song.  For my money, "Oscillator" fits that bill most aptly.  If someone showed me the lyrics for "Oscillator" before I'd heard it and told me they were to an extremely powerful song, I would slap that person in the face with my foot.
A warning to conducting officers of the machine:
You are exposed to the diatomic focused gravity.
Stray cosmic rays are threatening our generational biosphere.
Celestial missiles envelop nearby space climate zones in the void.
Prolonged exposure to trace amounts of dark matter produces an exponential decomposition.
I have no idea how The Contortionist make these lyrics and this concept work so well, but the ecstatic instrumental blowout to the mostly keyboard-led, 90-second buildup near the end of "Oscillator" makes such questions mute.

The following final interconnected "Exoplanet" suite of songs are the turtle shell on the sundae.
This is an excellent album.  There are a few slightly draggy heavy moments, but these are few and far between, and with so many finely detailed moments, they hardly matter.
I hope the Contortionist are as excited about their upcoming sophomore album as I am.

2010 Good Fight
1. Primal Directive 4:01
2. Flourish 6:21
3. Expire 3:45
4. Contact 4:59
5. Advent 3:17
6. Vessel 4:57
7. Oscillator 5:00
8. Axiom 2:24
9. Exoplanet I: Egress 4:11
10. Exoplanet II: Void 3:32
11. Exoplanet III: Light 5:46

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