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Without question, Intronaut deserves considerable credit for their creativity on this album. Without truly straying away from their roots, the band has created a progressive/post-metal masterpiece unlike anything I have ever heard before. Prehistoricisms, as a whole, is an outstanding accomplishment and is quite certainly the band's strongest release to date.
I'm kind of a sucker for instrumental intro tracks, so I was very pleased with how "Primordial Soup" set the tone for the album. The track has fantastic dark resonance. It's atmospheric without hitting the post-metal pitfall of overdoing that atmospheric elements. Perhaps most importantly, it's very brief, running at just under a minute and a half. It sticks around for just enough time to build up the album's tone before moving on to the real core.
From "The Literal Black Cloud" on out, the album takes the listener on a very bizarre trip. "The Literal Black Cloud", in particular, is unlike any other previous song in the band's catalog in that it successfully fuses slow, mellow progression with harsh elements more typical of heavier genres of metal. Intronaut's previous full-length album, Void, was noteworthy for being chaotic and laced with segments reminiscent of groove metal or death metal. Here, on Prehistoricisms, those chaotic elements are still very much in use, but they are used much less frequently and with great control. All that being said, "The Literal Black Cloud" is a superb opening track and is one of the best on the album. It exemplifies Intronaut's new approach to songwriting, fusing the more notable elements of their older style with more traditional elements of progressive metal, resulting in a completely new sound.
The middle tracks of the album are best characterized by their unpredictability. Dark, mellow interludes give way to wild, frantic, growling segments. Experimentation runs amok, just as one would hope. The title track has perhaps the strangest introduction and main theme that I've ever heard. The bass line and main riff to the track are unsettling in an unusual way, and the song is just all over the place, featuring the albums most abrupt changes from mellow to fierce, and sometimes both simultaneously. The riff starting around three and a half minutes through the track is superb. It's simple, but very effective, and in clever contrast with the other sections of the song.
"Any Port" is a personal favorite of mine, my testimonial to it's greatness that I often find myself absentmindedly humming the introductory bass line. On that note, it's worth acknowledging the outstanding bass work on this album. In every song, there is a standout part for the bass, be it obvious in the form of a breakdown or subtle in the form of a great underlying line. "Any Port" is probably the best song on the album for the bass, however the breakdown that closes out "Australopithecus" is also fantastic, regardless of its simplicity.
The real monster of the album is the final track, "The Reptilian Brain", which is a sixteen-minute instrumental with five movements, humorously titled "Sleep / Eat / Shit / Fight / Fuck". It's the album's most atmospheric track, and those atmospherics are executed exceptionally well. "Sleep" is an interesting experiment into exotic territory, featuring what I would ignorantly call a "tropical" sound. The percussion is excellent and fitting, using an instrument that I imagine is reminiscent of a set of bongos for the first few minutes. "Eat" flows beautifully from "Sleep". The transition is seamless and natural, with a simple change of pace and development of themes set forth in the previous movement. Best of all, I think it's really catchy, and it's another section of the album I find myself humming.
"The Reptilian Brain" is also notable for its incorporation of funk-like elements, to a lesser extent in "Eat" and to a significant extent in "Fuck". In true oddball fashion, the album closes with what I would describe as sounding like 1970's psychedelic music. It's peculiar, but it flows seamlessly and it fits the musical themes set forth throughout the album. That particular trend is one of the things that makes this such a strong album in my mind. This is not a concept album, to be sure, and never does the band reuse any material from previous tracks, but there are still recurring themes. Musically, all of the tracks are connected via tone and style, which makes the album truly a cohesive whole, which is exactly what a seasoned progressive metal fan would hope to hear.
Highlights: The Literal Black Cloud, Any Port, The Reptilian Brain
Unfuckingbelievable. How an album so unmemorable and apathetic can induce such feelings of rage in me that I actually have to write about it instantly after I listen to it is beyond me, it really is. I mean, there's progression in music, then there's taking said progression too far, and then there's fucking Intronaut, who have seemingly lost all concept of what an enjoyable song actually is in favor of whatever kind of progression these guys had in mind. This is so far removed from good music in any way, shape or form that it sounds like nothing I've ever heard before, and if you think that that's a compliment, you're VERY badly mistaken. I'm not saying this is unique because Prehistoricisms brings anything new to the table, because aesthetically there isn't much we haven't heard before. The guitar tone is rather reminiscent of whatever sludge metal band is all the rage these days, the vocalist has a rather stale croak that certainly won't grab anybody's attention, and overall, if small sections of the music were to be looked upon with a microscope, nothing would seem all that out of the ordinary. No, this album is unique because it takes musical quality so far below what is considered passable in metal that it stands in a league of its own.
Although admittedly my knowledge of prog/avant-garde metal in general is probably lower than that of many other genres, I do believe a key component of the genre is experimentation, to try and open up a new listening experience, to push the borders of music just a little bit further, to mix things up a bit, create something truly and wholly new. If that's indeed the case, then Prehistoricisms is a failed experiment if I ever saw one, a melting pot so incredibly choppy and rough in its composition that even Frankenstein takes a step back and says "whoa, that shit's a little out of place". The songs here are assembled with no intention of evoking any sort of emotion out of the listener, never really sure what they want to be- one minute they're aggressive, then the next they're pleasant and harmonic, then spacey and esoteric, but none of it really intertwines together to form a real path, a destination; this is structurally similar to a series of jagged stepping stones that don't even lead you across the fucking stream. These segments just kind of exist for the sake of existing.
Intronaut never tries to be beautiful, to be off-the-wall or bizarre, never really TRIES- this album does not have any conviction whatsoever behind it. This is largely because the actual melodies themselves are not composed to fit the context in which they're being delivered. As I mentioned earlier, there's a wide array of textures used throughout the songs, but that's all there is to them- there's more of an emphasis in texture than taste in the melodies, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when there's nothing to back up or accentuate the feel of the music, you're sure as shit not going to get any sort of positive response from me. The steaming twat behind the vocals isn't doing anything to divert your attention away from the lack of…well, everything on this album; in fact, his vocals don't draw attention at all. They're…harsh vocals. That's the only real defining characteristic to them. They don't ever vary in pitch, and the pitch they DO stay on is as non-extreme as harsh vocals can possibly be. And even though they sound almost completely separate from the music, they're not really out-of-place at the same time because the music is just as blank and soulless as the vocals. They don't really make the music any better or worse; they just kind of settle in, which is actually really sad because the fact that vocals as bad as these really don't alter my perception of this album is pretty much a testament to how hard this sucks as a whole.
I've got even worse qualms about this album though. Sure, proper composition of songs is a pretty essential thing to have in your music, but I've seen bands get by without a lick of songwriting skill between the members (Opeth, anyone?). I've even seen bands get by without any compositional skills AND a mediocre vocalist, so this still could have been relatively listenable. But the main reason behind my ridiculously negative feelings towards this album is that the riffs ARE FUCKING TERRIBLE! Honestly, these are bar none the WORST guitar riffs I've heard in all of metal. Prehistoricisms has no sense of melody WHAT SO EVER, it has absolutely no traits that would urge me to want to listen to the album again and the songs are actually painful to listen to because of the abuse of dissonant music traits in the guitar melodies. There's a VERY fine line between sounding really good and really bad when it comes to utilizing dissonance in your music, and Intronaut are about as far across the line as you can possibly get. I am being a hundred percent serious when I say I cannot fathom why people are eating this music up and lavishing praise on it when the riffs sound like this. Sometimes, they're dwelled upon for far, far too long too, particularly in the song "The Reptilian Brain" when they play that piss-poor "tribal" melody for about six fucking minutes without changing it up in the slightest. I think they were trying to generate an atmosphere or something, but when the only thing I'm thinking about is how goddamn BAD the melody is it doesn't really do much of anything. Really, there's no other way to phrase my feelings towards this. Prehistoricisms just SOUNDS REALLY FUCKING BAD. It simply offends me that a band can create music that sounds this grating, harsh (not in a good way) and painful, and release it with the utmost intent of pleasing a listener, and actually get signed to a major label!
I can already hear the Intronaut fanboys now: "You don't understand it!" "It's going to take you multiple listens before you can fully comprehend this type of music!" Well, in some other cases, you probably would have been right. For instance, at first listen, I dismissed Obscura era Gorguts as a bunch of wanky crap, and although it didn't really appeal to me on the first listen, the malformed, twisted riffs kept me coming back for reasons I didn't quite understand, and the music slowly worked its way into my regular listening cycle. I could tell that even though Gorguts' exterior was twisted and crusty, there was quality underneath. But Intronaut is just crusty. Not for one miserable fucking second did I ever feel the need to listen to ANY of this music again to see if it developed itself further and revealed more to me. Not even once was this album a tolerable listening experience, hell, it wasn't even merely a BAD listening experience, and I sure as hell knew it wasn’t going to get any better the more I heard it. It's kind of like planting a seed in sulfuric acid, you can wait as long as you want for that seed to grow into a flower but it's never fucking going to because, well it's sulfuric acid you fucking moron, you just KNOW there's absolutely no way it's going to happen. This album has absolutely nothing going for it and was one of the most, (if not THE most) horrible, wretched things I've heard in all the years I've been actively listening to music. If a cult arises dedicated to finding and destroying every single copy of this CD, I'd probably be the guy who started it. This is a big honking turd in the mouth of all people who like music that's enjoyable to listen to and I'd be very grateful if you would stay as far away from this as humanly possible. Don't even be tempted to check it out in order to witness how bad it is yourself; I already dragged myself through that pile of nails so you wouldn't have to. You're only hurting yourself by doing so.
This rules. I don't really need to say a lot more than that, but I would be doing this band an immense disservice to not shower them with praise.
If you're unfamiliar with them, Intronaut is the brain child of Sacha Dunable (Anubis Rising), Joe Lester (Mouth of the Architect) and Danny Walker (Uphill Battle, Exhumed, Phobia). After the Challenger EP (2007) guitarist Leon del Muerte left the band and was replaced by Dave Timnick, a seasoned session drummer residing in LA. With the release of "Prehistoricisms" the band did not lose a step, and if anything they really came into their own.
I thought the Challenger EP was pretty good, but to me it fell short of the dynamic nature and chaotic environment they created in 2006's "Void". On their latest release they picked up where they left off with "Void" and catapulted themselves even further into musical oblivion. I genuinely think that Intronaut is taking metal places that it has not been before, unlike many of their "progressive" peers. They write coherent music on a level that most people just don't quite understand, and with "Prehistoricisms" they managed to write a more tactile record while maintaining the turbulent style that helps to define them.
The record opens with "Primordial Soup", a short atmospheric guitar bit that sets a dismal scene where the rest of album unfolds. The first real song, "The Literal Black Cloud", is in my opinion the weakest song on the album as it lacks a lot of the frenzied madness that you'd expect from an opener. But beginning with "Cavernous Den of Shame", the album really takes off with a relentless mix of cacophonous turmoil, prog inspired post-rock, and pummeling riffs that slug away with all the heavyweights we've grown to love. This formula carries on for the remainder of the presentation and left me with a pretty satisfied listen.
The musicianship on this record is phenomenal, but if this is not your first encounter with Intronaut then you would certainly not be surprised by such a claim. Danny Walker is arguably the best drummer in metal right now and he puts forth yet another effort to support his candidacy. All of the guitar work, minus a couple filler parts, is top notch in both execution and creativity. Further, Joe Lester has made sure to not be left in the background by giving a pretty memorable performance on bass. The production is great all around; I have not a single complaint. Only gripe I have with this record, other than some blah parts on the second track, is the equivalent of a drum solo at the end of "Any Port" which, though awesome, is completely unnecessary and hurts the solidarity of an otherwise fantastic group outing.
This album is just really good. Even the throw away track is decent song, and the last track, "The Reptilian Brain: Sleep/Eat/Shit/Fight/Fuck", is as good a way to end this album as I could have thought of. As of right now I would put this on the same level as "Void", but I think after more listens that "Prehistoricisms" will eclipse their first release in my rotation because it just has more to offer.
I implore you to listen to this album.
"Prehistoricisms" is, without a better word, groovy. It has some of the coolest, cleanest bass riffs, loud, present drumming, and awesome lines and fills of harmonic guitar parts that contrast with the heavy beats and powerful sludge riffs that contrast and complement throughout the entire album. It's a great album, and a must-have for any sludge metal fans.
There are several points about this album that make it a standout in the sludge genre. The first being the very present bass influence. Intronaut's bassist, Joe Lester, has bass lines that are in the forefront of the album - they're equally as or more audible than the guitar parts. This is interesting because the bass lines are like the traditional chuga-chuga-chuga sounds a lot of sludge bass has, but it has a very, very present jazz tone and presence. It's different, and it works. A lot of the songs on the album are really made by Lester's crisp, jazzy grooves.
The drumming work in the album is also equally amazing. Combine the jazz fills and use of ride cymbal and bell-tops, drummer Danny Walker is also heard equally as bright as Lester's bass lines. It's an interesting mix of the jazz style of fills and beats that alternate between toms and lower cymbals. One of the only issues with the album is the mixing of the drum parts - granted, the drumming is spectacular, but it feels too up-front and clean for this kind of music. If the drumming was lower in the mix, the album would be close to near perfect.
As for the guitar parts, it'd be hard to say these guys really like Neurosis and Isis, but at the same time, they're not tied down by the common sound a lot of sludge and post-metal sounds with their riffs. They're a combination of clean, ambient parts, mixed in with stressed notes and harmonization, with plenty of distorted notes in between. The guitars in the album are fantastic to say the least, and are constantly changing and continuously interesting. As for the vocals, they're just how they need to be in a good sludgy/post-metal band - deep, strained growls, that are only heard in small doses throughout the song. The lyrics are solid, the growling is great, and Intronaut cuts down on the heavy use of vocals to give a great, sludgy groove.
Overall, everything in this album fits together to make an interesting piece of music. This band has all the right parts to continue to make more and more music that people will want to listen to. A sidenote to the review, this band is one of the better live bands I've ever seen when it comes to sound quality. It was like every part of the performance was just played off their album, and they decided to lip-sync the vocals and pretended to play their instruments. These guys are definitely worth a listen, and even more worth the chance to see live in concert.
Intronaut’s debut album Void in 2006 drew a lot of comparisons to Mastodon and was generally very well received by the metal press. The band came across like Mastodon meets Neurosis meets prog and on the strength of that debut and the following ep, the band has been signed onto Century Media and guaranteed a much higher profile.
Prehistoricisms starts where the last album stopped. Opening song The Literal Black Cloud is very Mastodon like but with a generally more laid back attitude and mixing up the aggression with some The Ocean style grooves. In fact right through the album those are the two bands that I’m reminded of most when I listen to the new Intronaut. However, where the band is different from the aforementioned duo is in the more laid back progressive approach to their song writing with a slightly sludgier sound overall.
Stand out tracks include the superb title song which twists and weaves its way through a variety of moods and is held up by a heavy angular groove, Sundial starts with a groove that sounds like a lighter, groovier Neurosis before hitting us with a stop-start jagged guitar riff and then going into a jazzy jam oriented part. This is top class technical songwriting and the many different parts in each song all come together and sound good because every song is held up and supported by a couple of kickass heavy grooves. Australopithicus is the most aggressive song on the album and again reminds me of The Ocean with its big fat riffs mixed together with parts that are basically the band jamming out while album closer The Reptilian Brain is a massive 16 minute epic (split into 5 parts: Sleep, Eat, Shit, Fight and Fuck) that runs the gamut from eastern classical (complete with Tablas) to a Cynic like second section to a noisy rock explosion before settling down and ending on a quiet note.
Special mention must be made of Joe Lester’s (Mouth of the Architect) bass playing. He’s helped by the production where every note he plays is crystal clear and he has a warm organic tone that really works well in counter point to the cold sounding guitars but it’s his playing that comes across a bit like Sean Malone that’s truly outstanding.
I guess like with most bands that experiment, there are a few bits that don’t really work. Any Port has a drum solo at the end of the song that seems a bit self indulgent but overall there’s very little that’s wrong with this album. The songs rock, the quieter sections work more often than not and manage to enhance the effect of the heavier and sludgier bits. Overall, Prehistoricisms is a terrific album with some memorable songs and is a definite highlight of this year for me.
Originally written for htpp://www.kvltsite.com