REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Soaring, Progressive, Sharp Technical Metal From The Contortionist

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

Recovering from the loss of their vocalist, Indiana's The Contortionist reach new heights on third album Language.

Losing a vocalist, especially one as intrinsically linked to a band’s sound and atmosphere as Jonathan Carpenter was to The Contortionist is rarely positive. They’re one of few bands who can competently claim to marry metal and progressive, melodic elements but allow both ample room to breathe in their music. 2011’s Intrinsic was a dreamy, soaring and complex bludgeoning, marrying prog and more than a hint of extreme metal into an absorbing cacophony, so its follow-up, Language definitely had work to do to prove itself.

But after a few listens, it’s clear that doubting The Contortionist was rather foolish, really. Language is a decidedly dreamier album than its predecessor, shedding the clunky production of Intrinsic and sounding altogether cleaner, smoother and sharper than the band have perhaps ever done.

Opener "The Source" prods that dreamy aspect straight into the spotlight; it’s a gorgeous intro led by simple piano chords and acoustic guitars, held together by new vocalist Michael Lessard’s impressive clean soars. His integration is seamless, with a steady rasping roar on hand for the record’s more brutal moments, but his real strength stems from his clean vocals, which wrap themselves around each melody and accent them without overpowering them.

Perhaps the best part of Language is that despite the very clear technical ability on show, and the less-than orthodox approach to heavy music, there are great songs on offer. The title track, a two-part offering showcasing equal parts luxurious, clean progressive melodies and crunching menace is a marvel, whilst the prickly angles of "Thrive" and the soaring power of album closer "The Parable" are some of the greatest peaks this band has reached.

The continued inclusion of keyboards and soft atmospherics (presumably from Lessard) offers a welcome ethereal aspect that continues to slot in perfectly to The Contortionist’s sound, now moreso than ever given that Language features less metallic grit than ever.

That isn’t to say that it lacks venom, or that its moments of brutality lack sharpness. It’s just that they are equaled by the album’s more expansive, progressive moments. Language still feels like it was made by the same band that spawned Intrinsic, but they’ve moved on, evolved and improved. As such, it’s not only The Contortionist’s best-sounding record to date; it’s their best, period.

8/10 Language is out now on eOne music. Special thanks to HoldTight! PR. Written by Iwan Lehnert