Tech Death Thursday: Contrarian – Their Worm Never Dies
Ever wonder what Death songs would sound like if they weren’t just piles of random riffs haphazardly slapped together? Contrarian has the answer!
- Archspire is headlining a big US tour this coming May, and they’re joined by Inferi, Wormhole, and Virvum. I haven’t seen Wormhole yet, but I can tell you the other three bands are absolutely incredible live. Hit this tour if you can.
- Big prog daddy Hannes Grossmann has a new album on the way for March 11th. Check out their first single, “The Flying Pizza Dilemma,” in which Morean is really pissed about Flat Earthers.
- Equipoise are disgustingly good at music.
Can they really be called Schuldiner-worship if all their riffs are better?
Personal vendettas against metal icons aside, Contrarian’s discography has been a bit hit-or-miss for me. Specifically, the first album (Polemic) was a hit, and the second (To Perceive is to Suffer) was a miss. Polemic had some prime old-school prog death tunes featuring big gurgly vocals and the inimitable guitar work of one Leon Macey (Mithras). To Perceive is to Suffer, while by no means a bad album, just felt flat in comparison. The overall sound was weirdly muted, and the vocals just sat on top of everything without really fitting in the mix. The songs didn’t feel quite as pointed, either, just meandering from start to finish- the same issue I take with the aforementioned Death.
It pleases me to say that Their Worm Never Dies is a big step in the right direction. Right from the start, the album feels much more vibrant than its predecessor; it kicks things off much the same way as the last two albums, with regal guitar harmonies and a creeping fretless bass line, but it just feels like there’s more energy behind it. Part of that is certainly owed to the more robust mix- the instruments all stand out, and the vocals don’t sound like they’re being shouted from the opposite end of the room anymore- but moreover, it’s more vigorous and has more motion.
That’s all well and good, but it means nothing if you don’t know anything about Contrarian’s previous work. To put it bluntly, these guys sound a lot like Death, probably more so than any other band drawing inspiration from the genre stalwarts. Fifth harmonies and ninth intervals abound, delivered in a mixture of punishing tremolo attacks and smooth legato. The rhythm section is very active; the bass switches frequently between melodic anchor and lead instrument, and George Kollias’s drumming is in peak form here. It’s stuff you’ve almost certainly heard before, but it’s done by some of the best musicians in the game right now.
With that said, there are two major differences between Death and Contrarian, one of which fixes all the problems I have with the former. First, where Death’s sound was rooted in thrash, Contrarian is much more death metal in flavor. It seems like that wouldn’t make much difference, but I believe that the less straightforward nature of death metal allows the band to explore a more diverse set of ideas in a greater sonic range. Second, and more importantly, their songs are much more focused. Individual Death riffs are great, no argument there, but there’s rarely any cohesion between them; Schuldiner just kind of mashed them together and called them a song. Contrarian’s songs are actually cogent; the riffs wear their influences on their sleeves, but they’re put together in a logical order that easily flows from start to finish.
If you have any sort of interest in old school prog death, Their Worm Never Dies needs to be on your radar. It captures the essence of the era and presents it in a modern light, and it represents a big step forward for Contrarian. You can pick it up through Willowtip when it lands on March 15th; be sure to follow Contrarian on social media in the meantime for updates. That’s all for this week, and until next time,
Is your band tech as heck? Got a juicy piece of news or an upcoming release to watch? Send it my way at email@example.com and I’ll check it out. I might even talk about it.