Progressive Death Metal is all the rage in Metal at the moment. It seems to have exploded in the past decade with bands like Opeth, Gojira and Between The Buried And Me being the crème de la crème. However, with today’s focus on spotless production and mechanical quantization, some of the primal energy from the genre’s roots in the nineties has been lost in the pursuit of sonic ear candy.
That’s where Contrarian bucks the trend. Sonically sounding more like Atheist than Cynic and with songs more reminiscent of Death more than The Faceless, Contrarian go back to basics and tone down the polished sheen in favour of a harsher sound; Contrarian manage to remind us of the fundamentals of the genre with their third album, Their Worm Never Dies (Willowtip).
‘Vaskania (The Evil Eye)’ opens up the record with rhythmically stumbling riffs reminiscent of Spiral Architect before hitting us with that good old Death Metal. The growls sound straight off a Death record and it’s so refreshing to hear them so raw and unprocessed. That’s not to say there aren’t modern genre developments throughout the record as well as the nods to the past. ‘Exorcism’ and ‘The Petition’ have clean ethereal passages accompanying bass guitar solo passages which are pretty commonplace nowadays. The instrumental ‘The Worm Never Dies’ is a complete throwback right down to the guitar tone which is reminiscent of that classic eighties Metal sound.
Most of the songs base themselves around the Thrash-inspired riffs which were the staple of genre back in the nineties, an approach that is often not repeated in modern iterations of Progressive Death Metal and the genre suffers as result – Contrarian focuses on the Death Metal more than most of their contemporaries.
That being said, the band can finds itself relying on those nostalgic passages a little too often and some sections sound a little similar, but thankfully the band mixes it up just enough so the album isn’t just one continuous Death Metal riff, though there is an overreliance on rhythmically complex riffs and some rather jarring transitions.
For modern fans, Their Worm Never Dies may sound old and poorly produced in comparison to today’s polished-sounding records. For those who lived through those golden early years of Progressive Death Metal, this record is a nostalgia trip to simpler times when Progressive Death Metal was more about the Death Metal than Prog.
6 / 10