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Intronaut is a progressive metal band hailing from Los Angeles, California. The band formed in 2004 and since then has put one EP (Null, 2006) and five studio albums (if you want to count The Challenger as a complete studio album).
My first introduction to Intronaut was when I saw them open for the legendary Cynic in 2010. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to think of these guys at first: off-kilter sludgy riffs, polyrythms, ethereal soundscapes of guitars soaked in delay, and reverb-playing arpeggios that intertwine with one another and seemingly flat death vocals. It sort of threw me off, but there was something that made me remember this band and check them out later. I soon found out what that was upon listening to all of their albums and the Null EP.
One thing that I think is really special about Intronaut is that from their first EP in 2006, they started out with their own unique sound. This seems to be pretty uncommon with metal bands today for the most part. Even Gojira’s first couple of EPs, while still heavy as shit, sounded very Morbid Angel/Carcass derivative. Null was definitely a different story.
BUT before I get too sidetracked, let’s talk about the actual album that came out: Habitual Levitations. On The band's 2010 release, a new element was introduced into the band’s sound - clean vocals (gasp!!11). Clean vocals are not used exclusively throughout Valley of Smoke, but they do appear pretty often in the tracks. On Habitual Levitations, one of the things you will probably notice (or bitch about) first is that clean vocals are used exclusively on the album. At first I wasn’t really a huge fan of the way these vocals sounded when I first heard them on VOS, but I did eventually get used to them, and on this album I feel they are utilized even better. The vocals on this album might not always appear super passionate or intense, but they accomplish something that compliments their sound very well. They are used for atmosphere, just like the instruments are much of the time, and they are used to outline a dark or beautiful melody (depending on the track) that is elevated to explosive, cathartic heights by the music the instruments are playing. A great example of how these vocals can compliment an atmosphere is in the song “Steps” where a really, REALLY AWESOME sludgy riff is introduced. When Dave and Sacha are singing over this riff, they utilize haunting harmonies that in a way reminds me of Alice in Chains. At one point, Dave and Sacha are actually singing notes that are a half step off from each other, which I think works really awesomely with the song and is a pretty brilliant idea, although at times I do find the vocals to sound sort of boring, like in the beginning of “Sore Sight for Eyes”. But this is just a minor gripe. These moments usually don’t last very long and are often made up for with the amazing music all over this album.
Another new aspect of this LP is there are some acoustic guitars layered into the mix. It works really well with the atmospheric clean interludes the band sort of specializes in. They work really well in “The Welding” and in “Milk Leg” to add another texture to the guitars. The first track provides us with what is definitely the heaviest riff on the album. With the dissonant harmonies and the way the polyrythm comes in, it’s sure to make you do the “this riff is so heavy” face. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe I’ll talk about that later. The track eventually evolves into something complex and well-written. In true Intronaut fashion, they incorporate the heavy riff they were using and let it transform into a more melodic riff. This eventually gives way to the melancholic, yet beautiful and cathartic instrumental section that finishes the song.
“Harmonomicon” (the title makes me think of some Lovecraftian harmonica?) is a great example of how the melody of the vocals is complimented by the music so well. On “The Way Down”, there is a huge moment of sonic intensity and release. It feels as if all the blood were to rush to your head at once followed by an indescribable euphoria that is the beauty and texture of the melodies and instrumental interplay.
And if we’re talking about Intronaut, it would be a fucking crime to not mention the rhythm section, and as usual...holy shit. The bass lines are tasteful and showcase a lot of skill. The bass and the drums are always locked in together. It feels like it would be impossible to pull them apart. As usual, Danny Walker (drummer) really just does a great job overall. The fills are smooth and feel effortless. The beats and polyrhythms he plays showcase wonderful musicianship and his parts always compliment the songs very well.
Now that I say that and think about it, the songs wouldn’t be the same if you took away one of the instruments. And yeah, that sounds obvious, but what I mean is if you got the drummer from Cannibal Corpse to write drum parts for these songs, they wouldn’t be the same songs. And the drum sound? You think I wasn’t going to mention that? The drums actually sound like I am in the same room with them. They sound smooth, clear, clean, and sexy. In too many modern metal releases (with few exceptions) the drums often sound like fucking plastic being raped by Pro-tools (example: *some modern tech death band*).
With this album, Intronaut has proven again that they are always evolving and they will settle for a sound to be comfortable. They are not afraid to take risks (clean vocals can really piss people off) while, at the same time, they still retain their unquestionably unique sound.
I’d give this a 8-8.5 out of 10. I really enjoyed this and plan on enjoying it more.
Favorite songs - Killing Birds With Stones, Harmonomicon, The Way Down, Steps, and Milk Leg.
[This review comes from my tumblr where I review music, (http://imryanandilikedeathmetal.tumblr.com/) which is why it is copy-pasted]