A Review of The Contortionist's "Clairvoyant"

    I don't have a lot of words on this one, because The Contortionist have made another very honest, human album with some occasionally actually progressive songwriting in them. After Language, I had high hopes for them to keep evolving, and they did; Clairvoyant strikes a good balance of continuing things that worked, improving things that had potential, and breaking some new ground. The personal story behind where most of the lyrics came from is also elegantly portrayed throughout the album, and everything is executed well technically. It's not an especially flashy release, but I feel it's a really solid work at both a macro and micro level.

    First, the negatives. There are certainly some songs here that, while they don't feel incomplete, feel a bit fallow. "Godspeed" and "Reimagined" are the two biggest examples here, in different ways: "Godspeed" is lacking a certain roundness of character generally found in The Contortionist's softer sections. The arrangement just starts, roughly repeats a predictable structure twice with a static character, then ends with a polyrhythm. It's not egregious but it's nothing extraordinary. "Reimagined" is the most up-front pop they've ever gotten, but the pacing is all wonky because they go through each section like they're being fined for every extra 10 seconds in the song.

    "Relapse" is another piece that seems half-baked to me. I like the marriage of the 'main riff'/verse on the synth and the chorus – the transition between the verse centered in C minor and the chorus in E Major is slick – but the lyrics uncharacteristically falter a bit in depth, and the song's a bit lacking in distinctive ideas. It sounds kinda b-sidey, to be short.

    However, the majority of the album is excellent and composed at a nice density, with certain rhythmic motives making up textural elements of several songs, and others defining a single piece's character. For the former, the last song, "Monochrome (Pensive)", develops the 5/8 palindrome that's the focus of both "Monochrome" pieces and "The Center" at a peaceful pace, while the lyrics pick up the thematic threads of every other song on the album with particular phrases – "godspeed", insomnia, rain, etc., culminating in an honestly pretty Between the Buried and Me-sounding finish. However, it's not as hokey as some of BTBAM's 'big finishes' can be, and both bands tend to take their time getting there and building up so it doesn't feel unjustified when it comes, plus the progression that "Monochrome" uses there is really excellent in my opinion.

    For an example of a piece with distinctive, full character, "Clairvoyant" (the song) is just fantastic. The A-sections are motivically interesting enough, but they fold in several other non-typical ideas that simply show a very successful understanding of composing in their medium. Plus, there's more 12-tone. I know I made fun of "Integration" off Language in a previous review here but I really did not expect to be listening for serial tonality in that album at the time... I wish there were more experimentation with it here, but I'm always happy to hear ambitious compositional inclusions like it.

    I really don't have much more to say about this album. It's exceedingly functional, understatedly smart, and, well, heartfelt. While I miss some of the ambitious pseudo-excesses of Intrinstic and Language, The Contortionist don't actually need those facets to make good album, and they perhaps could have disrupted the intimate timbre here – so, I think this is another solid work from a band that's consistently one of the only "progressive metal" bands that is interested in progressing.