Contrarian is probably one of the more prolific “super group…but not a super group” bands within modern death metal. Several artists hailing from internationally known and loved bands come together to jam some of the coolest progressive death metal songs I’ve ever heard. The bands last album, “Polemic“, was one of my favorite albums to exist in 2015. Their brutal death vocal style by Cody McConnell (Goemagot) over progressive death metal with legendary guitarist Leon Macey (Mithras, Sarpanitum) doing lead guitar stuff just SLAYED. Coming into their new album we have a slightly different sound with To Perceive Is To Suffer, as Macey and McConnell are not on this album. Taking vocal duty is legendary drummer George Kollias (Nile) and he also returns to destroy us on the kit as well. Jim Tasikas’ glorious song writing ambitions return with full energy as well, Brian Mason takes control of the soloing this time around and Ed Paulsen’s delicious bass tones are back with a vengeance. Contrarian may have changed up some things in the lineup department but the enriched song experience is still the same.
First thing you will notice is the production sounds more organic and raw this time around. You’ll also notice that the vocals are not of a brutal death metal growl but a more classic death metal approach, think more along the lines of Athiest or even Death. Tasikas/Mason/Paulsen come together effortlessly to create substantial music, giving us more progressive death metal grooves than ever before, along side whimsical and catchy guitar playing and solos. Ultimately, these 4 guys have created one of the more unique death metal records of 2017, just the same way they did in 2015. Which is incredibly hard to pulloff when you change up your sound just a little.
I’ve always enjoyed the bass guitar thumping away on Contrarian albums, there is a nice balance of sound and quality happening across the board but it’s special to be able to hear that low end thud and groove while the guitar riffs rip through. Speaking of riffs, while being slightly more complicated than your usual stuff, Contrarian actually keeps things catchy and interesting without showing off or ‘wanking’ their guitars just for the sake of doing so. The technical aspects as well as the progressive instrumentation really makes this album one you can listen to repeatedly, which is hard to do these days. There are so many bands pumping out so much music daily that it’s nice to find a band such as this that you can enjoy their new album for long periods of time and never grow tired of it.
I truly applaud Contrarian for their unique song writing structures and for thinking outside of the box. They stick to their sound, adjust things when need be and execute flawlessly. While I do enjoy Kollias’ vocal contributions to the album, it took a minute to get used to the change. Once you bridge that gap, it’s smooth sailing to the shores of enjoyable death metal listening. It’s not that the new vocal style is bad, it was just a big change to myself that it threw me off. Production and mixing is incredibly good, especially on a great set of can headphones! The song writing is phenomenal, the songs are catchy, interesting and progressively unique and overall I highly recommend this to everyone who is a fan of death metal, not just progressive death metal. The reason being is because there is a certain beauty to this and raw hatred to it without being all “slam this and growl that”. It’s like the mature man’s death metal.
God I hope that doesn’t make me sound pretentious saying that. All in all, just listen to Contrarian’s new album, “To Perceive Is To Suffer“, it’s freaking good. A classic death metal sound in the modern death metal era!
Release Date: July 28th, 2017
Label: Willowtip Records
FFO: Death, Mithras, NYN & Inanimate Existence