The Contortionist - Exoplanet (Good Fight Music)

It's pretty mental...
Release Date: 
30 Aug 2010 - 11:30pm

Although this album was released over a year ago, I think it’s worth bringing to MaF readers attention.  Signed to Good Fight Music, The Contortionist had already put out two EPs; Shapeshifter (2008) and Apparition (2009) but Exoplanet is the band's first full length album and it could quite easily blow your mind. Either that or you’ll hate it for a hundred different reasons.

Primal Directive opens with a mad dischordant intro - which grabbed my attention immediately - then it gets wilder and wilder until it's like two radio stations playing at once. There are a lot of styles squeezed into this song and I’m reminded of a friend’s comment that this album jumps around a lot and he had trouble listening to it.

Flourish is next and already I can tell that Exoplanet won’t be for everyone (that’s not to say that I’m not liking it, though). It's got a mellow mid section and it’s got bags of resonating, heavy chordwork. There are some gorgeous lead guitars over the top of it and then the double kick drops in for a nice cup of tea and a sit down. This track’s got big arrangements but then it’s suddenly back to growlings and wailings of Jonathan Carpenter and down-tuned riffage.

Expire is pure mental energy and is sure to please any death metal fan. There’s an electro-voice over the top of everything and it’s got some excellent drum work courtesy of Joey Baca.

Advent mixes totally mellow guitar (like angel feet on the fret board...) over punishing chords. It’s almost jazz in places but it’s easy to see how this kind of stuff could be seen as being ‘bitty’ – as if there’s a lot of ideas stitched together to make up one complete song.

Contact has a beautiful, relaxed opening and the production is not so fine as to mask the sound of the chord changes, which I love. Then it all goes crazy. I’m really enjoying the arrangements and how each track is composed. It’s genius but will everyone ‘get’ what the band are doing? (I’m not even sure if I do...)

Vessel goes from mellow to heavy in 2 seconds flat then explodes in all directions. Ooh! Spooky robot voice! Musically, it’s like some trippy conversation where you continually loop back to certain topics; a riff will fade away then drop back into the song later. Disorientating yet familiar.

Oscillator is gloriously heavy and gloriously dischordant – the drum work is unbelievable and the guitars are monstrous (Robby Baca & Cam Maynard work incredibly well together). I wonder about attention issues with the constantly shifting styles and chord patterns – would further development of particular sections add to the music or would it simply be too much? Midway there's some ambient style keyboard work that wouldn’t be out of place on a ‘whale music’ CD but the mild stuff seems to add weight to the heavier side of the music, and the lead and rhythm guitars are inspired; a beautiful combination.

Axiom starts with acoustic guitars and piano and this is the super mellow track that showcases (to peanuts incapable of appreciating the album) that these guys can actually play extremely well. A delightful interlude.

Exoplanet 1: Egress comes next with another chilled intro and you know it won’t last...but it does! For almost two minutes! But then everyone starts shouting and going spastic on their instruments. Then it’s all chilled again.

Exoplanet 2: Void is straight into the nuttiness with this track; dare I say a more complicated form of death metal? Because The Contortionist change styles so much within the one song, it seems as if the songs are a lot longer than they actually are. Chris Tilley’s bass rises to the surface during this one but (as always) I want MORE!

The final track Exoplanet 3: Light is like a huge hit of valium; it's mellow - like Sabbath's Planet Caravan mellow; it’s like a head massage after a week of solid labour (not that listening to this album is anything like hard work). It’s dripping in effects, and the echo and reverb bounce around inside your skull. Then three minutes in...WARGH! You get hit by Contortionist’s madness again, which leads to some insane crescendo.

I’m not sure what these guys are doing and I don’t claim to understand it. But I like it, and the album is well worth a listen or six.