Asymmetrical Hypermeter in The Contortionist’s ‘Reimagined’

“Reimagined,” by the American progressive metal band The Contortionist, may at first sound like it is a straightforward pop song.

Compared to much of The Contortionist’s material, the song certainly is undemanding, consonant, and simple.

But the chorus of “Reimagined” does something much more clever — nuanced, but rhythmically complex.

The chorus, which begins at 0:30 in the studio recording, employs asymmetrical (or “irregular”) hypermeter, with varied harmonic rhythm.

I transcribed the refrain and embedded the sheet music below:

The chorus material, which makes up the bulk of the song, consists of a period comprised of three phrases.

The first two phrases consist of 5 bars, or 5-beat hypermeter. The third phrase is a conventional quadratic 4-bar phrase — but, in its first iteration, it is apocopated, the last quarter note sliced off. What was previously a syncopated E in the bass (the tonic) is metrically elided into the next bar, becoming the downbeat.

Graphically, this asymmetrical hypermetrical structure looks like this:

|| 4/4 | – – – | – – – | – – – | – – – ||  (5 bars, phrase 1)

|| 4/4 | – – – | – – – | – – – | – – – ||  (5 bars, phrase 2)

|| 4/4 | – – – | – – – | 3/4 ||            (4 bars, phrase 3)

This rhythmic interest is the most fascinating thing about the composition.

Harmonically, the chorus — and the song — is not very exploratory. The chorus consists of a static E minor 7 chord.

Under that chord, however, the bass changes, outline the chords Emi7/C and Emi7/G.

Later, the band employs more asymmetrical metric organization. The interlude from 1:58 to 2:22 is in 7/4 (with conventional quadratic 4-bar hypermeter).

The passage before that, from 1:42 to 1:59, is in 6/4 — but the ride cymbal articulates a constant 6/8 pattern, juxtaposed against a syncopated bass line and kick drum, creating a strong hemiola feel. This section similarly has “regular” 4-bar phrases, but these are grouped into a larger 3-phrase period, outlining more asymmetrical hypermeter.

“Reimagined” is no doubt one of The Contortionist’s most poppy songs, but it has subtle rhythmic and metric asymmetry that is rarely heard in pop music.