Saturday, June 18, 2016

review: Contrarian

release date: November 20th, 2015
label: Willowtip Records
A while back this publication reported on this particular album. This review is for those that might have missed it. Of course, this is now an album that is not so new. Contrarian is, says the band, a "progressive death metal, avant-garde death metal project." Let's leave aside the question of death metal because it's not death metal, but we can say that it is progressive extreme metal, and let's move on. According to Metal Archives, the personnel on the album is Ed Paulsen (bass), George Kollias (drums), Jim Tasks (guitars), Brian Mason (guitars), Leon Macey (guitars [lead]), and Cody McConnell (vocals). George is very well known for his Nile work, and Leon is known for his Mithras and Sarpanitum music. This work will be interesting to those that enjoy the combination of prog and extreme metal. One reason in particular that the album stands out is the songwriting. It is prog music and there is no doubt about the skill and the virtuoso elements of the songs and time changes. However, the band has been careful to make sure that this still sounds like metal music, properly speaking. The skill and intellect are kept in balance with the rocking. This is by no means a total headbanging album; it is not a speedfest and it is not a brutal death metal exercise. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that there is lots of high energy going on, there is an uptempo vibe to the whole album, as opposed to being shoegazing or proggy postrock, or sludge and space rock, styles sometimes associated with prog and that are slow. It's not saying that this is as intense as brutal, blasting death metal, but there is plenty of headbanging possible. It does have riffs. It does have speed in places, just not total, nonstop speed.
The deal is this: this is prog—extreme metal with prog—for metal people who are not musicians. In a word, it's not so complex and anti-song that only skilled prog musicians could enjoy it or praise it. The central objective is the songs and that is readily evident because on a first listen there are little things—melodies, hooks, lines and such details that initially might be points of interest and that on subsequent listens become clearer and fuller. The vocals could be the deal breaker for some people. The growling on this album is low and gruff. There is no melodic/growling combination, just growling. The vocals are not meant to be the focal point of this music, and are closer to a drumming or percussion instrument; they are there to keep certain rhythms and times and fill the voids of silence felt when a band is fully, no-vocals instrumental. On the other hand, this is all-business growling, with none of the punk/hardcore shenanigans like screamo-core-yelling. Listeners that dislike all growling and that never like it in any context, then this album probably will not do much to change their minds. Frankly, some people have called the vocals boring, but if someone says that, perhaps they should also state they are not into growling too much, maybe, given that this type of growling is well done and it is very competent, and fits this music, if we understand that this is a method of working for prog extreme metal.
It's not clear how successful this album has been for the musicians involved. It seems like not many publications wrote much about it, but hopefully that is not true. For those that missed the boat on this music, the album is good quality all around that may interest the more selective metal music supporters. Listen to the complete recording at the link below. Expect prog and expect extreme metal. Expect quality.
review by MMB

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