Now slimmed down to the duo of the Brothers Paul and Andrew Haug after the departure of bassist Tim Stahlmann, Melbourne outfit Contrive promise a sleeker, trimmed-down approach for their third full-length album. Their first album, The Meaning Unseen, was a snarling beast of a record, but the follow up The Internal Dialogue was a bit of a stinker, meaning the only way is up for the band with this new opus. Right?
Broadly, yes. The band have gone for a much more contemporary sound with this album – or their take on contemporary, anyway. The opening two tracks weave in and out of the soft/heavy dynamic with alacrity, helping themselves to a bit of Deftones here, and a lot of Fear Factory there. What’s Mine is actually a tidy little number, if truth be told, with enough melody to keep non-committed listeners interested whilst still doubtlessly appealing to the band’s hardcore followers who expect a little more musical heft.
The Immediate Age is a bit prosaic, offering nothing new but giving the ears some jagged riffage and another Fear Factory-lite chorus; You’re Owned is more of the same, but heavier.
The band are trying hard to inject a bit of light and shade, and should be congratulated for that. The mid section of You’re Owned is genuinely interesting, but the band struggle to maintain this interest throughout entire songs. The Human Game also has a go at creating an atmosphere, utilising a varispeeded human voice and some more punishing guitar work, whilst Throwaway starts off in more forthright style – some of the best riffing on the album is here – before dropping out midway again.
Below the Line is a bit more proggy, and probably the best track on the album, sounding improbably like something Judas Priest might have been dabbling with in 1977 – and none the worse for all that – and the title track, which closes things out, is an energetic thrasher which ends the album with a beautiful blast of brutal bellicosity.
At the end of the day, Contrive seem to be slightly adrift from the mainstream, which they probably like, but if they do another album I’d like to see them commit themselves one way or the other, pushing either the more progressive side or the heavier side. But that doesn’t stop Slow Dissolve from being an enjoyable, at times exciting album.
Slow Dissolve is released on September 1.