Despite their longevity and appearances on major tours and festivals over many years, Contrive have, Melbourne notwithstanding, always seemed to exist just on the periphery of better-known Australian metal acts.
Slow Dissolve could well change that.
After a seven-year break between recordings and a hiatus during which time the Haug twins mourned their father and saw the departure of bass player Tim Stahlmann, Contrive has returned with what is certainly the most consistent and meticulous effort of their career. Unlike The Internal Dialogue’s uneven and directionless meanderings of stylistic shift, Slow Dissolve is a focused, tightly-written album that gets the balance between their brutish groove metal hammering and more expansive moments right. Halfway through six-minute curtain-raiser ‘Connect-Dead’ it becomes clear that this will be an eclectic listen as the Haugs curtail a bludgeoning metal attack fuelled by a chugging staccato riff to segue into extended introspection where Paul switches his gruff grunt for a melodic croon and lilting guitars and surging keys take centrestage ahead of another mood shift into something close to Mastodon territory. This is by far the best song Contrive has ever written, and it’s just the first track on the album. The smooth progressions from groove-ridden riffmongering to more intricate and intimate passages are further highlighted on the next cut, ‘What’s Mine’ and an electric piano in ‘The Immediate Age’ adds a further element to their increasingly expansive sound. ‘The Human Game’ experiments with a spoken word track over the sound of howling wind and a variety of musical shifts from percussively driven near-pop to driving metal, expertly displaying the band’s dexterity in a way they have only fumbled at in the past. On the title track they find a final moment for introspection in between ramping up the aggression for a pummeling finish.
From the pits of their grief, Paul and Andrew Haug have made an album of which they can be righteously proud. Slow Dissolve is the true high point of their creativity and lengthy career.
2. What’s Mine
3. The Immediate Age
4. You’re Owned
5. The Human Game
7. Below the Line
8. Slow Dissolve