The transformation is complete. With the release of their fourth full-length album, Clairvoyant, the Contortionist have done what some feared and others eagerly anticipated: change. Gone now are their deathcore days; the concussive breakdowns and guttural vocals of old have departed along with the band's former members — and, honestly, we all saw it coming.
2014's critical hit, Language, introduced listeners both to a new lineup and a new sound that favoured the band's progressive leanings over the heavy. The inaugural performance by present vocalist, Michael Lessard, when compared to past singers, was significantly cleaner, but dominant nonetheless, easing the transition from old to new. In addition, the Contortionist introduced Eric Guenther, the band's first full-time keyboardist, making the instrument far more prominent than ever before. Throw in a new bassist, Jordan Eberhardt, and the table was set for transformation.
On this most recent release, the Contortionist have continued along the prog-metal path set by Language, committing monogamously to the genre. Like with any pair of newlyweds, the album is full of compromise and concession. Clairvoyant is entirely devoid of breakdowns; all screaming found on the album is mixed into obscurity, and ethereal pads have replaced face-melting riffs. And that's okay.
Clairvoyant is not an especially heavy album, but don't let it deter you. If you can make peace with the band's inevitable evolution, this album has much to enjoy. A balance of complexity, superior song structure and melodic mastery are offered as compensation for the absent breakdowns, and the trade is more than fair.
The negative correlation between age and heaviness has claimed yet another metal band, but in this case, the result is something to celebrate. You won't find yourself headbanging to this album, but you just might find yourself staring at a blank wall doing nothing but intently listening. (Good Fight)