As you might expect from a band who have a certain Devin Townsend on board to mix their album, Contrive don’t hang about when it comes to asserting their authority as a band not to be trifled with and sure enough the opening track to ‘the internal dialogue’ is a blistering, melodic, well written and beautifully produced attack on the senses.
Of course, opening with such a strong track can be a double-edged sword, particularly if you fail to follow on from the initial momentum gained, but happily Contrive have no such problems and their eight track album is an unqualified success. While the first track ‘is this the way’ offers a pure, pummelling adrenalin rush, the mid section of the song sees the band experiment with ambient textures and atmospheric sounds to great effect lending greater weight to the heavy passages that bookend the track and allowing the composition to breathe and develop rather than race through to a sweaty, but ultimately unfulfilling, climax. Having grabbed your attention, then, the band launch a percussive attack with ‘both sides all lies’ which vocally has more than a little in common with Devin’s erstwhile outfit Strapping young lad but musically offers a more heavy metal approach than the industrial chaos SYL chose to unleash. Interestingly it is the bass that shines here above all else with Tim Stahlmann offering up beautifully fluid runs while drummer Andrew Haug unleashes fill-after-fill marking him out as a way-above-average sticksman. ‘This time last week’ continues the run of amazing songs while Paul Haug’s vocals are increasingly impassioned and you’re left wondering how on earth a three-piece band can be so damned loud. It’s a powerful performance and those in search of a new band to appreciate could do far worse than checking out Contrive before they truly take off, as they are sure to do if they continue to unleash work of this quality.
Altering the pace significantly is the beautiful ‘spirits alive’ which captures SYL’s unnerving ability to make a track that is both unapologetically heavy and unashamedly melodic (recall, for example, the remarkable ‘love?’ which coupled battering-ram riffs with gorgeous vocal harmonies and you’re in the right ballpark). It’s a firm highlight of the album and showcases the band’s grasp of dynamics and Paul Haug’s understated but skilful guitar playing. ‘Hope’ is another track that takes time to grow, harnessing the power of electronics to augment a track and providing a melody that encourages the hope of the title. ‘Confusions way’, however, is not so forgiving with a punishing riff kicking things back into gear and Paul sounding ever more enraged. ‘The internal dialogue’ is something of an oddity – a song that questions (as the title might suggest) the very nature of the singer and which sees the band throwing string sections and acoustic guitar at the mix. It’s a brave song which works thanks to the courage and determination of the band and the excellent musicianship throughout, particularly as the band neatly shift gear towards the end and launch into a frenzied assault that leaves you feeling just a touch battered by the end. ‘Lessening life’ closes this all-too-brief album and it’s notable that there is not a single moment of ‘filler’ here, with every track proving worthy to have made the cut and it’s no surprise that Devin chose to lend his skills to the album as the band are a bright, talented hope for the future of heavy rock music.
Overall contrive provide an eclectic, exciting, musically challenging second album that hints at a love of SYL, fear factory and tool while ultimately sounding like no-one but themselves. You can find the band at their myspace page and I would recommend you check them out now before they go super-nova. A fantastic album that deserves to be heard far and wide.