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Review: The Contortionist, 'Intrinsic’ 

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The Contortionist
Intrinsic
eOne Music/Good Fight Music

If Exoplanet, the debut by Indianapolis-based The Contortionist, was a gallant effort at prog-metal worship, the follow-up, Intrinsic, is even bigger and better.

Most of its 10 tracks are epic in nature, as assaultive as they are atmospheric. The guitar runs by Robby Baca and Cameron Maynard are more nimble and nuanced, the rhythm section of bassist Christopher Tilley and Baca’s twin brother Joey on drums equal parts blasting and martial, and singer Jonathan Carpenter offers both demonic growls and ethereal reveries.

Nearly every song on Intrinsic has all the aforementioned qualities included. It’s that distinction in progressive music that typically turns off listeners who may otherwise give it consideration. And indeed some of Carpenter’s keyboard accoutrements venture too far into ELP territory. But, on Intrinsic, The Contortionist have overcome the monumental hurdle of coalescing a bevy of influences into something streamlined and grandiose. That extends to the lyrical content, exploring themes of consciousness and the metaphysical.

Highlights include the eye-crossing time changes of “Causality,” which aside from gnarly guitar textures also delves into blues territory. “Geocentric Confusion” takes the offensive to dizzying new heights with an intensity, despite a prolonged keyboard interlude, that never wanes. “Cortical” is an effectively creepy, tormenting composition with disquieting piano strikes amidst some of the album’s best loud/soft and slow/fast dynamics.

“Parallel Trance” closes the proceedings with Eno soundscapes and detached voices — a heady, dystopian end to a near-fathomless exercise. Considering some of The Contortionist’s members are barely of legal drinking age, it’s safe to assume they’ve only begun their progression.

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