Album Review: Contemplator – Sonance

Contemplator - Sonance

There may have been a period when progressive metal was silent. Although there lurked enough Dream Theater clones out there at one point to have me thinking the genre may have died out, the last few years have been host to an inspiring renaissance of prog metal. Canadians Contemplator have been contributing in their own way to the progressive metal revival since the release of their self-titled debut back in 2013. To anyone with a vested interest in the current state of progressive metal, Contemplator deserves to be heard. Well composed, arranged and wonderfully performed, this year’s Sonance is an ambitious piece of largely instrumental prog metal, with more than enough epic ideas to keep a listener engaged and attentive.

I was reminded of many, stylistically different, bands and artists throughout Sonance, and Contemplator admit that there is a wide selection of bands that influence their work, ranging from Gorguts, Mastodon, Meshuggah, Unexpect, Cynic, Opeth on the Metal side to King Crimson, Yes, Genesis on the Progressive Rock side, and further more Queens of the Stone Age and Motorpsycho on the Rock side. All that additionally spiced with the influences of game OST’s. Some of Contemplator’s most cinematic movements on the album have that same “wall-of-sound” ambiance that Devin Townsend is so famous for. Sonance capitalizes on jazz fusion much more than anything you’ll hear from Townsend, and there are many points on the record that draw upon instrumental rock tradition in the way of Joe Satriani. Many of the band’s influences are readily apparent in the music.

Suffice to say, there is more than enough of a variety to keep the music from sounding stale or rehashed. Although Contemplator’s true calling lies in melody-driven progressive metal guitar, courtesy of Antoine Baril and Maxime Rochefort, the stylistic curveballs here are fully-realized and sound great. “The Veiling,” the album’s atmospheric opener, is an excellent example of the band’s skills as multi-faceted composers, and what starts here continues all the way down to the closing “Meridian.” There is a very cinematic feel to Sonance, not surprising considering everything that’s been said so far.

Each composition on Sonance is memorable for their stand-out moments, rather than the track as a whole. Song structures seem arranged to cater to a string of individually satisfying moments, as opposed to the ideas all contributing to the overall whole of a composition.

Sonance is an album packed with instrumental inventiveness and technical proficiency. Contemplator excel here both as composers and musicians. For all of its musical high points, Sonance is definitely one of the releases that shouldn’t be missed this year. If Sonance is to be a sign of even greater things in the future, then there’s no doubt I’ll stay tuned in to hear what Contemplator does next.

Pre-order Sonance by Contemplator on Bandcamp.

Tracklist:

1. The Veiling
2. Ancestral Circles
3. Shapes
4. Echopraxia
5. Balance
6. Art of Nothing
7. Filter
8. Welkin
9. Relative
10. Meridian

Line-up:

* Christian Pacaud – bass, programming, additional guitars (7, 8)
* Antoine Guertin – drums, additional guitars (3)
* Antoine Baril – guitars
* Maxime Rochefort – guitars

with:

* Jeff Ball – violin, viola

Links:

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