Contrarian: Minor Complexities
Wide eyed, and eager, I arrived at NEARfest 2007. This was my first prog festival. It was early, and I had a great opportunity to visit the various vending tables before the crowd grew. I knew there would be the various music stores represented, artists, and the bands playing on the main stage. What I did not know was that other bands would reserve space to promote themselves. The first such table I happened upon was for Contrarian, a band I had never heard of. This actually makes sense (as I would come to find out later), because their debut album had just been released that week. I listened to a bit of the music, and introduced myself to the man at the table. Tim Boney and I spoke a bit, and to my surprise, learned that he was unaware of Prog Archives. More people were coming around, so we decided to talk again later. When we spoke again, we began to build a rapport. He had great ideas about making intellectual music. He also happened to be a very friendly guy. With my interest in his music, and his interest in P.A., he armed me with a copy of Minor Complexities. There are always details to be worked out when launching a new project, so we waited till all the pieces were in place before adding Contrarian to P.A.
During the initial evaluation, it was hard to figure out exactly where to place this band. There is definitely a modern symphonic component, but it also draws heavily on hard rock from the ’70s. At that time, there was no Heavy Prog sub- genre, so we decided Symphonic would be best. When I was finally able to get the addition done, it struck me that Heavy Prog would probably be a better fit. At this point (finally), some idea of what the music is like should be forming.
So, what is it exactly that we have here? At first glance, it might seem like an homage to ’70s hard rock. You can hear some Styx, and Kansas, but only if the guitars had been much heavier. So, there is a bit of a metal component as well. Joe Leming sounds like he stepped right out of a time machine from the mid ’70s. He actually sounds quite a bit like the singer from Triumph (can’t remember if it’s Emmett or Moore), with perhaps a bit of Steve Walsh, and a touch of Ronnie James Dio thrown in.
Once you dig a little deeper, you see that there is much more to this. The complexity begins to unfold as you notice they have nicely incorporated violin on some of the tracks. Then you notice that there are moments that almost remind you of something Les Claypool, or Gentle Giant might do. As it unfolds, the melodic keyboards, modern symphonic techniques, and insightful lyrics begin to attract attention. There are also some slower, almost ballad moments. It is all put together seamlessly. This is a polished act. It should be, as it took several years to complete. It is also impressive how three guys make this sound like a much larger band. In fact, the band did have to increase its numbers in order to play live.
With all that is going on, it is still the remembrance of ’70s hard rock that is the primary flavor of Contrarian. It is very well done, but that style has lost much of its appeal to me over the years. I rarely find myself listening to the rock classics of that era anymore, and I never was a big Kansas fan. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not good. I think it’s mainly the vocal style. Joe Leming has a terrific voice, but I just prefer a bit more subtlety these days. The lyrics are also thought provoking, and intended to be that way. The subject matter has a lot of depth. All the musicians definitely know their way around their instruments. The guitar is especially ripping. If this sounds like something you would be into, then go for it.
Timothy G. Boney – guitars, keyboards, synthesizers, bass, percussion, vocals
Joseph L. Leming – Lead and backing vocals, percussion
Michael J. White – drums
Lance Cockrell – violin
Eric Jorgenson – cello