Overall Score: 8/10 Musicanship: 8/10 Songwriting: 9/10 Cover: 7/10 Pros: World class prog that doesn’t sacrifice melody for intricacy | Song that stand out as better than a cover of a classic Cons: You are left wanting more to the point of feeling unfulfilled
Concept albums are rife in the world of progressive music. When an entire band steps into the realm of conceptual you know you’ve got some hard but rewarding work on your hands. Take Coheed and Cambria as perhaps the most prominent example; an overarching story that determines the lyricism and musicianship of each album as a different chapter of The Amory Wars – frontman Claudio Sanchez’s comic book series. Having a consistent theme or story can be a great boon to a band, but equally a hindrance; an inability to step outside of parameters. With their latest EP, Our Bones, The Contortionist step out of their comfort zone and once again find themselves at the forefront of modern progressive music.
Opening with a track just shy of four minutes isn’t a traditionally prog move. Foregoing the opportunity to kick-start an EP of transformative material with a sweeping epic breaching the ten minute mark, The Contortionist prove why they are one of the most malleable and impressive bands of their ilk. Conventions be damned, long songs out of the window, just punchy, to the point music that worms its way into the pleasure centre of the brain. This however is without mentioning just how much intricacy and verve these truncated tunes possess. Follow on first listen is a real ear worm, with beautiful segues between the soft and harsh vocal styles that prove masterful ability, but as you peel back the layers you realise that each member of the band is doing their utmost to inject a vibrancy and inventiveness into every iota of the song. It’s mightily impressive and sets the scene for the EP brilliantly.
Early Grave follows in similar fashion, once again being a simple piece of effective writing on the surface, but secretly harboring a deep seated need to perplex and challenge the listener. The interlude that is All Grey, is a haunting, enrapturing bit of aural velvet that soothes the ears and changes the EP’s predominant mood from one of crescendos of apoplectic rage to a more considered and restrained melancholy. This speaks to understanding of craft as the band end the short experience with a cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ 1979. If there are masters of melancholy in the musical milieu, Pumpkins have at least earned themselves a seat at the King’s table – the King in this case being Joy Division for metaphors sake – and The Contortionist turn their hand to the bleakness with laudable aptitude. It’s not a cover to redefine interpretations of classic material, and easily stands out as the EP’s least brilliant moment, but only by virtue of being unoriginal material rather than in terms of quality of songwriting.
This EP is not a stop gap in The Contortionist’s career, rather it is a point of necessary evolution. It nods to their past with respect while barreling forwards into a bright future. They remain one of the best of their genre with this latest release, and if there is a gripe to be found, it’s only that you are left wanting more to the point of feeling somewhat unfulfilled. A following full length cannot come quickly enough, and if this is the quality of craftsmanship on offer, you can expect a world beating progressive album.
The new EP from The Contortionist, Our Bones, is out now on eOne.