Progressive metal acts have been on the rise in recent years; more and more bands are setting out to write extremely technical music, all while keeping it accessible to those not involved in the scene. One such band is The Contortionist, who only started exploring the genre a few years ago. Their third and most recent album, Language, delves even deeper into these progressive roots.
The album starts out with an airy synth texture, calming atonal chords played on a piano, and otherworldly singing; the language being used is not in English, or rather, not until the final lyrics of the song: “washed away.” After ending on a very dissonant chord, “Language I” kicks in with a long buildup, wherein you would expect unclean vocals to break through; expectations are shattered when we’re instead greeted by a soothing baritone voice. We do finally get a taste of unclean vocals later on, but they only serve as a background harmony to vocalist Michael Lessard. The song ends with lyrics mentioning “ebb and flow” and “drifting,” before transitioning into “Language II,” a standard progressive metal song filled with heavy syncopation, atonal guitar riffing, and unclean vocals taking center stage. Once again, this song goes back to the idea of “ebb and flow,” except this time ending with: “sinking.” Language keeps up with this idea of call and response between spacey ambient melodies and heavy-hitting metal tunes all the way through its 48-minute run.
“Washed away.” “Drifting.” “Sinking.” “Ebb and flow.” These phrases might seem like simple leitmotifs, however, their significance is established in “The Parable,” which ends with a sample of Alan Watts speaking on voluntary vs. involuntary actions: “Just as the waves are continuous with ocean, your body is continuous with the total energy system of the cosmos.”