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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Contrarian

Minor Complexities

Review by Tim Jones

Minor Complexities is the debut album from Contrarian, a band out of New Jersey.  The group was put together by Tim Boney (guitars, keys, and bass), who is joined by Michael White (drums) and Joseph Leming (vocals).  Boney and Leming are the principal songwriters.

There is a wide variety of sounds on this album, and it is clear that the band has an equally wide variety of influences.  The music is often a mix between Styx and Threshold, but with a lot of other progressive and non-progressive stuff coming in.

This is the best new band I've heard in a long time.  I highly recommend it.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Operation Overlord

Operation Overlord” is an incredible song that begins with beautiful violin.  The pre-vocal introduction builds and builds, eventually becoming a prog rock wonder, reminiscent (largely due to the violin) of Kansas at their best.  The vocals come in after a couple of minutes...and they're good strong prog metal/Kansas vocals.  The music never gets terribly heavy, but the style is definitely that of progressive/symphonic metal, especially when the electric guitars enter in.  It’s the best song of the album.

Twilight of the Idols
A loud guitar-ridden introduction starts this track off.  It's guitar/drum heavy, but keys occasionally add a much-needed dimension to what would otherwise be a low-melody song.  The fast guitar and the loud music contrast the philosophical lyrics.
Sting of Fate
Careful guitar-strumming starts and then vocals enter.  The lyrics sound a bit awkward here, and the vocals are less melodic.  A very cool proggy bridge provides a nice break, and the last part of the song is more melodic and much more enjoyable than the first part.  Leming puts in some nice metal screams to close the song.
Fear and Trembling
A rich introduction morphs into beautiful prog chaos and shows the band's classical influences.  Then heavy-hitting guitars and loud harsh vocals come in.  "Religion is easy, faith is hard" sings Leming, and the lyrics contrast different people who live or fail to live their religion.  A brilliant building guitar bridge gives the listener another chance to focus on the great music in this song, and then the vocals come in again; this time, though, the vocals and guitars are both out front, and the song is no longer as harsh.  It becomes soft and melodic, and then morphs back into instrumental chaos before Leming sings the final line in a bombastic ending.
Barricades
A haunting introduction hints at war.  This is a harsh song, where a few moments with the vocalist are broken up by the war-like instruments.  The harshness makes the few moments of melody so much more precious.  Violins come in for a short entry.  A cool King Crimson-like moment of madness makes itself known.  "Barricades" is all over the place, a schizophrenic revelation.
Another Day
"Another Day" begins with a hard introduction and tones down when the vocals come in.  Think 80's power ballad, except with a driving guitar behind it all.  That guitar sound defines Contrarian's style more than anything else--more so, even, than the great metal vocals - good stuff.
Just Doing Time
A drum beat starts this up, and the drums stay sharp and calculated throughout.  It’s hard rock with a bit of almost-country. Bon Jovi, anyone?  "Just Doing Time" is slower than the other tracks (in other words, it proceeds at a pretty normal speed).
Plato's Cave

The introduction to "Plato's Cave" is much like the introduction to "Operation Overlord.”  It's beautiful, it's got violin, and it introduces a great song.  The melody is broken up by the demands of Leming and Boney's guitar.  Three minutes in, the metal side of Contrarian becomes very obvious, and a strong King Crimson influence is briefly heard.  We get some great guitar music here. 

You're My Prayer

Silent Lucidity” comes to mind.  With sad vocals, quiet keys and quiet plucking guitar, this is a very nice song, adding some variety to an album that already has a lot of it.

Stand Or Fall
Heavy guitars come in again.  This is more of a fun straight-forward rocker...at least at first.  Progressive rock and metal fans may dismiss it based on the first 90 seconds...but the song soon becomes very much progressive, with complicated, haunting guitars, complex drums, and melodic vocals.  It is here that I am most reminded of Threshold's vocalist.  The song ends well with melodic vocals.
Sanguine Bells

Symphonic metal guides this song.  It has great contrasts of fast and slow and great contrasts of soft and hard.  It’s fantastic stuff.  The guitar speeds through here, especially during the bridge - very rich.  This has the best lyrics of the album.  Keys end it.

The Final Hand
Loud guitars start off this harder piece.  Chaotic background vocals make a brief yet interesting entry.  Very much like Threshold, but with Contrarian's characteristic guitars.
 
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