Napalm Flesh: The Contortionist Interview

Posted October 6, 2011 in

The Contortionist perform at the Depot. Photo: Megan Kennedy

The month of horror has arrived, and what metalhead doesn’t love the one time of year where everyone tries to be more like us? That only gives us excuse to be all the more brutal (and like we need one). This first week of terror, starspawns, I bring you an interview with guitarist Robby Baca of The Contortionist, a space-prog-metal band from Indiana that fans of sci-fi and complex, atmospheric metal cannot afford to miss. We also have blog-exclusive reviews of the newest releases from As You Drown, Fuck the Facts, Nile, Ordo Obsidium,
Skeletonwitch and Threat Signal, as well as this week’s event listings and links to streaming music.

Before we get into this week's events, check out some links to new streaming music.
Absu – Abzu (Read the review in our October issue, out 10/7)
Alaric - Self-Titled
As You Drown - Rat King (Reviewed in this week's blog)

Black Cobra - Invernal

Fuck the Facts – Die Miserable (Reviewed in this week's blog)
Hull – Beyond the Lightless Sky (Reviewed in our October issue, in town at Bar Deluxe 11/14)

This is Hell – Black Mass

This week in live brutality:
Hardcore punk band OFF! will be at In The Venue on October 7th; tickets are $14, all-ages, and doors are at 6:30 (And don’t forget to check out SLUG’s interview with lead singer Keith Morris! 

Also on Friday, Jucifer will hit Burt’s Tiki Lounge with locals IX Zealot and OldTimer. $10 gets you in and the show will get underway at 9:00.

Veteran anger-management dropouts Devildriver will be at In The Venue October 8th; all-ages, tickets are $15, and anyone who purchased a ticket for this show while it was still scheduled for Club Vegas WILL have their tickets honored.

Also on Saturday, Evergrey will bring their Glorious Collision tour to Salt Lake with Sabaton, Powerglove and The Absence at The Complex. Tickets are $16 in advance, $20 day of, and $45 for VIP passes. This is an all ages show, and it starts at 8:00 PM.

The Complex has some fantastic shows coming up at the end of the month: Immolation on October 20th,  Bane and Defeater on October 21st, Opeth on October 24th, Cavalera Conspiracy on October 28th, and Warbringer on November 1st. All these shows are 21+ with the exception of Opeth and Bane and range from $12-28 in price. 

Interview with Robby Baca of The Contortionist

The Contortionist is a rare beast of a band. Hailing from Indianapolis, their first record Exoplanet is a start-to-finish masterpiece of progressive metal inspired by space travel and cosmic endlessness. After transitioning to a major label, the band embarked on one hell of a tour lineup in support of Periphery, The Human Abstract, and Textures, gathering fans like astronauts collecting rocks on an alien planet. Napalm Flesh’s prediction? These guys are going to be huge. I was lucky enough to sit down with guitarist Robby Baca (whose twin brother plays drums in the band) before their set at The Complex September 24th and find out more about these prog geniuses.

SLUG: Give us a little background on your band and how you guys got started.
Robby Baca: We’re just five guys who went to school and played shows together. We’ve been together for four or five years now, and we just like a certain kind of music. We write the music that we want to hear, and that’s really all there is to it.

SLUG: How are you enjoying the tour with Periphery, The Human Abstract and Textures so far?
Baca: This tour is my favorite tour we’ve ever done by far. The bands on this tour share the same sound, so we’re not the oddball band on the tour this time.

SLUG: How would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard it?
Baca: I guess it depends on their age…I would say space metal.

SLUG: Space metal is a good description. Speaking of, how did you guys achieve the sound of your self-named “sci-fi vocals”?
Baca: Certain parts, we put a vocoder on the voice to make it sound really robotic. John has kind of, the tambour of his vocal chords have this… I don’t know how describe it… but it’s good for that spacey sound.

SLUG: How was the reception of Exoplanet from your perspective and when can we expect another studio release?
Baca: Reception for the album was good, I haven’t really heard anything bad about it. But we’ll be in the studio in February so maybe we’ll have a new album by spring next year. We are also taking preorders for an Exoplanet picture disk vinyl that fans can pick up in the meantime.

SLUG: Can you tell me a little bit about your writing process?
Baca: Our writing process is actually something that I haven’t quite figured out yet. Kinda scares me for the new record, actually. But for Exoplanet, it was weird how it all came together, I’m still not sure how it happened.

SLUG: So on your next album, you’ll for sure be using a different process with writing?

Baca: Yeah, it’s gonna be more premeditated.

SLUG: Past press has pointed out that your music is “locked deeply into a remarkable place of expression and creativity that is usually reserved for bands with multiple albums under their belt.” As you guys have only a few years and one album’s worth of experience, what do you think is special about you as a band that allows such cohesive creativity?
Baca: We know how to keep ourselves from becoming bored with our music. We don’t try to go out of our way to be out there just for the sake of being weird or prog or whatever. We just try our best not to be bored with our music. If we’re bored, we change something.

SLUG: Exoplanet was produced by metal veteran Ken Susi of Unearth; how was it working with him on the album and what, if anything, did he contribute to your sound?
Baca: That was awesome, Ken is one of the best dudes in the world. He contributed to our sound a lot through the mixing, because he knows how to mix guitars really well. He knew what we were saying when we said “We want this sound.” And we were also using all of his equipment which helped. His studio is awesome, he has lots of great shit that we’ll probably never own ourselves. It was lots of fun.

SLUG: Do you plan to work with him on the next album?
Baca: Actually, we’ve already booked somewhere else, but maybe in the future. We’ll be producing at Audio Hammer Studios in Florida this time around.

SLUG: How’s the transition to major label been?
Baca: It was weird at first just dealing with all the things that come with that. But it was an easy transition. People at our label are great, so I feel like we see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. They haven’t limited our creative freedom at all.

SLUG: What is The Contortionist listening to right now?
Baca: The new Textures record nonstop. Other than that, a lot of math-metal and some obscure indie bands.

SLUG: How do you feel about the current state of metal?
Baca: I feel kind of detached from the whole thing, cause I don’t listen to a whole lot of metal other than this kind of thing. As far as the progressive metal scene, I feel like it’s taking off a little more than it has before. There are more bands like us coming out, and the crowds are getting bigger.


As You Drown
Rat King
Metal Blade
Street: 10.11
As You Drown = Job For a Cowboy + Decapitated (new) + Whitechapel
There’s nothing quite like snuggling up to a warm subwoofer and getting a nice back massage – oh wait this is an album of written, recorded and performed music. The scene for this style of death metal lingering right on the edge of deathcore is huge right—there’s plenty of albums that fans of this genre idolize when they should be running far from them. I will give As You Drown some credit for being incessantly heavy – bare through the pounding songs and you will find some good death-groove based riffing. Rat King bears a strong semblance to the latest from Decapitated: there’s the whole “djent” thing going on right now which I know has a deeper meaning but all I read into it is that it’s stylistically based from Meshuggah’s math styled stop and go riffing. I do have some big gripes with this album, the vocalist apparently attended Jamey Jasta’s school for growling, meaning yeah it sounds tough and “brootal” but as far as serious anger behind it—there is none to be found. Extreme metal fans do love their double bass kick drum blast beats but Rat King relies way too much on it for its entire core of drumming. Listen hard enough and you’ll hear other stuff going on but the production sound lays that double bass on thick and you don’t get a lot of breathing room to actually hear the guitar riffing, bass and small amount of leads. It might be a good idea to play the records tracks in reverse because album closer “Cleansing Hands” is its most promising track—with some breaks in the constant beating and the most prevalent in guitar leads, it’s the most unique track on the record and if the album flowed more like the song it would be something to herald much more. This Swedish band needs some good word of mouth and have the ability/willingness to take some serious critiques before they could have something that more than just the younger metal fans will get to moving with. –Bryer Wharton

Fuck the Facts

Die Miserable


Street: 10.11
Fuck the Facts = Agoraphobic Nosebleed + Converge + Kylesa
I love the chaos and the unrelenting drive of grindcore, sometimes it seems that once you’ve heard one 20 second blast of violence, you’ve heard ‘em all. Enter Die Miserable, the ninth full-length from Canadian grindsters Fuck the Facts. The ferocious speed and throat-shredding vocals typical of grindcore are here and they’re very, very good, but it’s the non-grind influences that really make Die Miserable an album worth revisiting. The blastbeat maintains a fairly constant presence throughout the album, but the surprisingly diverse guitar work creates an intense feeling of space expanding and collapsing, as thick, sludgy riffs transform into angular attacks that seem to meld with the drums--there are even some solos thrown in with the chaos! Comparing the band to Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Kylesa seems easy because of the use of female vocals, but again, it is in the variance of the music and Fuck the Facts’ ability to combine disparate influences such as those bands that really sets them apart. Die Miserable comes highly recommended. –Ricky Vigil

Worship the Animal: The Lost Recordings
Street: 10.11.11
Nile = Krisiun + Origin + Sacred Reich (seriously)
Lower your expectations right now. This isn’t the technically brilliant, genre-bending, Nile you’ve grown to praise, adore and worship over the years. It’s a throwback to a lost recording session, sure and it does boast a classic lineup, but it really doesn’t have much to sustain anyone’s interest other than thoughts of “damn, what’s up with Karl Sanders’ voice? When did he start singing for Merauder?” It does possess a few premature Nile germs, like the lyrical obsession with ancient Egypt…but it drags a bit, sluggish and leaden where it should be blistering. Nerds and Nile enthusiasts may find something they can love here (and truth be told, the title track ain’t bad if you just pretend it’s an Obituary demo) but when you’ve got the nuance, ithyphallic mastery and brutality of Amongst the Catacombs of the Nephren-Ka and In Their Darkened Shrines to pick through, why bother digging deeper into the past? All you get is dirt. –Dylan Chadwick

Latest tracks by Ordo Obsidium
Ordo Obsidium
Orbis Tertius
Street: 10.11
Ordo Obsidium = Beatrik + Katatonia (early) + Emperor (early) + Mortifera
Bring on the mystery and intrigue: there are few facts given to the media and fans about Ordo Obsidium and the band’s debut record Orbis Tertius, but we do know the band hails from the Bay Area and they play black/doom metal and then some. The vibe of the record and its songcrafting fit with the new and old schools of black metal. There are hints of the more atmospheric portions and rawness of early Emperor, but also significant is the early Katatonia vibe. There is no question Orbis Tertius dishes out stark mood defining music—the album is more of an exercise in pain, sorrow and just flat out dismal sounds than anything in anger or hatred. The title track offers the most doom laden of all the albums songs and while not quite funeral doom slow and rife with dirge passages it has an instantaneous sedating and bleak effect especially after some of the warmer (but nowhere near 32 degrees warm) guitar riffing and quicker tremolo picking of earlier and later songs. This is a perfect offering to welcome the fall and winter. The production has an effect of echoing like some odd beckoning call from a misty forest just past a cold coastline. There’s a huge amount of promise with this record and with it comes much wanted answers as to who the band is and where their motives officially may lie – the best part of it all – once you hit that somber dismal mood the songs don’t get old, but more inviting. –Bryer Wharton

Forever Abomination
Prosthetic Records

Street: 10.07
Skeletonwitch = Abigail Williams + Toxic Holocaust + Converge
With their moody progressions and a fierce, unrelenting pace, Skeletonwitch has all of the ingredients of classic blackened thrash metal, but with a dynamic execution that distinguishes itself rather readily from other acts in the genre. While the first half of Forever Abomination is somewhat standard thrash fare, the album really picks up at “Erased and Forgotten”, where the album gets unexpectedly dark and stays that way. Also impressive was Dustin Boltjes's debut on drums, as he carries the album's sudden tempo and rhythm changes without an audible hitch. –Henry Glasheen

Threat Signal
Nuclear Blast
Street: 10.11
Threat Signal = Dry Cell vocals + Fear Factory + Lamb of God
For those who may have walked away from Threat Signal after their ho-hum formulaic work on Vigilance, I bid you halt, for redemption is at hand. It’s amazing what a new drummer, guitarist and 7 strings can do to fire up a band; indeed, it feels like Threat Signal was fed a steady diet of barbed wire and molotovs. Every riff is aggressive, every vocal line thick with murder, it’s almost a complete reinvention. Jon Howard has tightened up both his clean vox and screaming, every word dripping with confidence. The pounding drum breakdown in “New World Order” is overwhelming, like the heartbeat of a giant dying monster- Alex Rudinger is a force to be reckoned with, and an exciting addition for the band’s future. The quietly distorted guitar opening of “Trust In None” is melancholic and warm, and makes a creative segway into the thickness of the galloping drums and groovy riffs reminiscent of Lamb of God. Guitar work on “Disposition” is a sexy, speedy ride. Overall a pleasant surprise and a reinvention rarely witnessed. –Megan Kennedy


The Contortionist perform at the Depot. Photo: Megan Kennedy Robby Baca of The Contortionist. Photo: Megan Kennedy