Follow-up albums can be either a blessing or a curse. They can represent a new direction or they can just become just another release. In the case of Melbourne three-piece Contrive, their newest release The Internal Dialogue is in more of the former category rather than the latter. They have taken their established sound from their debut release The Meaning Unseen and have built upon that by throwing some new influences and ideas into the musical pot.
The album opens with the grooving salvo in Is This The Way?, this track has a little bit of everything crammed into its 5.5-minute frame - a heavy opener and closer driven by a thick and solid guitar riff accompanied by a middle section laden with a pulsating bassline and rhythmic drumwork, with frontman Paul Haug's attacking vocals over the top. It sets the pace for the rest of the album.
The material on The Internal Dialogue shifts into different gears depending on the track. Tracks such as Both Sides All Lies and the thrashers in Confusions Way (with some solid bass and drum work from Tim Stahlmann and Andrew Haug respectively) represent the core of Contrive's established sound. Tracks such as the atmospheric Spirits Alive (which reminds me of a cross between melodic Fear Factory and AustralAlien era Alchemist), the melodic This Time Last Week and the ominous Hope take the album into almost progressive territory.
Not to take anything away from what Fredrik Nordstrom did on The Meaning Unseen, the mix (courtesy of the one and only Devin Townsend) on The Internal Dialogue absolutely slays it. The instruments breathe organically within the mix and have their own place without crashing into one another, while showing what the guys can do musically.
One of the downfalls of The Internal Dialogue is in some of the heavier material. The riffs just sound too similar at times and some of the heavier songs would have worked with Paul Haug utilising cleaner vocals, instead of his shouting attack. That said, the shouting does work well in many places.
For a band like Contrive, an album like The Internal Dialogue is a positive step in a newer direction, without abandoning their core sound, more-so expanding on it. If you like your music of a progressive nature and something different, the album is worth investing in.
Contrive's The Internal Dialogue is out now through Contrive Music/MGM.