Contrarian – To Perceive Is to Suffer (Review)

ContrarianThis is the second album from US death metallers Contrarian.

I greatly enjoyed 2015’s Polemic, so it’s with some anticipation that I turn to their latest release.

Unexpectedly, To Perceive Is to Suffer is notably different from the band’s first album. Not completely, of course, but enough to take notice of a shift in production and style.

There’s a mix of old and new influences apparent on To Perceive Is to Suffer, with the band taking their old-school progressive death metal influences, (Death, Cynic, etc.), and combining them with the modern era’s hyper-technicality and polished sheen. On Polemic this was weighted more in favour of the modern day side of the equation than it is on this latest release, which definitely favours the old-school side more heavily. It is still a mix though, so we get an interesting and non-standard take on the style.

This is progressive/technical death metal that revels in complicated displays of musical prowess, but also in creating songs that actually go somewhere with all of this skilled musicianship, rather than it just being flaunted for the sake of it. This is the progressive side of the band’s identity; Contrarian skillfully manipulate the various instruments to forge sophisticated and intricate pathways through sonic space.

The songs are fluidly labyrinthine, weaving and darting all over the shop. It’s all done in a very controlled and considered fashion though, as the experience and talent of the individuals in this band clearly know where they want to take the listener, and know how to transport them there.

Melody is used, but not in an over the top way; rather, it’s an integral part of the whole, and cannot be easily separated. Which could be said of all aspects of the band’s delivery, of course. Contrarian’s brand of music is a complicated, holistic affair, combined in just the right way with the aim of worshipping a particular era in time, while still being cognisant of the fact that it’s actually 2017.

All of the instruments are impressively played, but I must mention the bass in particular. I’m unsure of how this is actually played by a human being and not some excessively-fingered daemonic virtuoso. It’s extremely impressive, that’s for sure.

The band have made use of a different singer for this album, with their drummer, (also in Nile), taking up vocal duties. This plays a large part in giving the album a different feel to its predecessor, with the vocals on the new one being closer to those of the bands of the main era being emulated, which I imagine is a deliberate move on Contrarian’s part.

With quality playing and involved, skillfully-crafted songs, To Perceive Is to Suffer should excite and please anyone who likes their old-school influenced progressive/technical death metal.

Give this a try.

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