[8.5/10] Over the course of a decade long career, Melbourne (Victoria, Australia)-based metal act Contrive have come a long way, with each of the band’s three releases (2001’s Finally EP, 2003’s Prosper EP and 2005’s full-length effort The Meaning Unseen) documenting their growing confidence as songwriters and performers in the studio.
Now returning with their second full-length effort The Internal Dialogue, Contrive (who comprise of vocalist/guitarist Paul Haug, bassist Tim Stahlmann and drummer/electronics contributor Andrew Haug) have once again taken another huge step above and beyond what they presented listeners five years ago on their debut.
The opening track “Is This the Way?” is a huge sounding effort, and one of the album’s clear stand-out cuts. The huge production (courtesy of co-producer Adam Calaitzis and mixed by Devin Townsend) certainly lends weight to band’s sound (especially on the guitar side of things), while Paul Haug’s multi-layered vocals only add to the intensity of the song’s heavier moments.
Maintaining the aggressive vibe of the opener is “Confusion’s Way” and the lyrically scathing “Both Sides All Lies.” Again, the production adds a real depth to the band’s sound, while the atmospheric breakdown in the middle on the latter (where Andrew Haug’s simple drum beats are set against some gentle chords) carefully emphasises the dynamics within the trio’s sound.
In a lot of ways, Contrive have really taken a gamble with the songwriting here, with the band’s older heavily grooved metallic sound taking a backseat on quite a bit of the band’s new material, while their newfound sense of progressive elements have been definitely pushed to the front. And it’s no more evident than in tracks such as the lengthy “Hope,” the driving “This Time Last Week” and “Lessening Life.”
“Hope” is by far the most progressive track with its spoken word lyrics and sprawling melodic grooved wall of sound musical backdrop, while the latter two mentioned tracks are more along the lines of their older sounding groove metal material, but punctuated with moments where the band indulge in the progressive tendencies to add some variation within the songs themselves.
Finally, there’s the melodic “Spirits Alive” and the acoustic based title track “The Internal Dialogue.” Like a few tracks on their last album, both these tracks feature an abundance of clean vocals from Paul. And like previous efforts, both tracks show an improvement. But it’s not just the vocals that have improved, with “Spirits Alive” in particular benefiting from some well thought out instrumental passages.
As much as I enjoy Contrive’s latest album, I do have some problems with some moments dotted throughout all the eight tracks presented, whether it be a vocal line, a particular chord structure or even some of the lyrics. So as far as I’m concerned, The Internal Dialogue is far from a perfect album. But if I were to weigh up the band’s latest effort against The Meaning Unseen, it’s not hard to see that Contrive really has come a long way in the last five years, and that they’ve put everything into their latest effort.