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The Contortionist's debut record Exoplanet had a profound influence on the way I approach music as soon as I heard it; there isn't a single band that I've come across that has blended progressive, death metal and post-rock elements together in such a perfect balance. Tracks like Oscillator and Flourish feature vast instrumental passages that perfectly convey the album's space related concepts while opening track Primal Directive and Exoplanet II: Void showed that the band had still not only maintained the brutality showcased on their 2009 EP Apparition, but had refined and perfected it. By all accounts, Exoplanet was a perfect album in my eyes so when the band announced that a sophomore release was on its way, I was apprehensive. Could they possibly write an album that could live up to their debut?
Although every bit as enjoyable as their first album, Intrinsic is a very different beast. The fantastic track Holomovement starts the album off with an atmospheric synth chord quickly accompanied by vocalist Jonathan Carpenter's now frequently used clean voice, which is one of the most noticeable changes on this record. While the clean vocals were present on Exoplanet, the majority of his vocals consisted of death growls. The opposite is true on Intrinsic, where the cleans carry the bulk of the vocal phrases and the growls only rise to the surface during heavier sections.
Musically, the album feels much more like a progressive metal record than Exoplanet ever did. This is due in part to the increased use of Carpenter's keyboard skills, both in terms of frequency and position in the album's mix. The heavy sections present on the first record are somewhat reduced this time around, but pack much more of a punch because of this. The guitar work courtesy of Cameron Maynard and Robby Baca is nothing short of excellence, ranging from smooth jazz clean sounds and frantic distorted riffs that coalesce into soaring leads and the framework laid down by drummer Joey Baca and bassist Chris Tilley provides an interesting, ever-shifting canvas for the two guitarists to paint upon.
So, did the Contortionist release Exoplanet Part II? No, but what they did release is another album in what is hopefully a long string of progressive metal masterpieces.
Choice Cuts: Geocentric Confusion, Causality, Holomovement
Well, let me start this review off by saying that this album is an interesting change from the style that The Contortionist has been doing for their past albums. This album focuses on a very atmospheric kind of feel, not exactly spacey like Exoplanet, but to get the actual vibe, you have to listen to the album to see what I'm talking about. This album focuses more on complexity and melody than heaviness. John's traditional growl style is not used as much on this album as it was used on Exoplanet. He focuses more on clean vocals.
As far as the music's sound, there are more keyboard parts, clean guitar parts, and overall the album is less heavy. At first I was a little let down that this album wasn't extremely heavy like Exoplanet, but after a few plays it really began to grow on me. I still prefer the sound of Exoplanet, but still this album is very interesting. The complex riffs, drumming, and atmospheric bass and synth really do make this album very interesting and fun to listen to.
I pre-ordered the album and got it one day after its release date. Very quick shipping. My favorite song from the album is either Dreaming Schematics or Anatomy Anomalies. Overall, I give the album about a 75/100. Exoplanet and Intrinsic are both great in their own way. I prefer Exoplanet, but if you are a die hard fan of The Contortionist like me (I own both albums), I would recommend you buy Intrinsic.