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Brilliant Comeback - 90%

raoulduke25, May 15th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Divebomb Records

The classic eighties USPM act Intrinsic have come back to put out their first album in nearly two decades. And it's a pretty serious effort too. It's quite a whopper of an album, clocking in at more than twice the length of their debut, featuring plenty of original songs as well as a Led Zeppelin cover, an instrumental, and at least a couple of tracks that – whilst quite good in their own right – probably don't really even qualify as metal songs. The majority of the songs definitely are in the same camp with their earlier works, but this album is still all over the place when it comes to the vast number of styles represented. It's one of the starkest examples I have heard of a band going in several different directions and still managing to put out some quality work.

The sound is definitely more polished on this album compared to their earlier ones, as they have moved away from their rawer roots and have now embraced a bit more modern sound. The songs come across with a very strong and amped-up Fates Warning vibe, complete with all the infectious hooks you could hope for laid nicely over a smorgasbord of fast and proggy guitar riffs. But that's hardly the whole story with this album. The Fates Warning influence is certainly strong on a good number of the tracks, but then you get songs that are so unique that they don't fit nicely into any category. “Mourn For Her” is one such piece that, if heard by itself apart from this album, one would probably classify as easy listening jazz rock. Sure, lots of metal albums have a slow acoustic song thrown in the mix, but this is nothing like any other token softie I have ever heard. And even though the guitar chords and basslines sound like outtakes from a Steely Dan recording session, the song doesn't feel out of place at all, and fits nicely with the overall arc of the album.

Two of the highlight tracks are “Vicious Circle” and “Pillar of Fire” which don't really capture the Fates Warning influence as much as the others, but do feature some of the best examples of the relentless and innovative riffs that drive this album. These both have some really groovy sections, but not in the Pantera/Lamb of God groove sense, but more like Sacred Rite's “White Boy” or Joe Satriani's famous “Satch Boogie”. A definite departure to be sure, but one that's still well executed.

The album isn't flawless though. For all the praise I have to give the band for putting out such a strong late-career release, the diverse styles on the album don't exactly lend themselves to a consistent album. I had no problem enjoying each and every track, but it would be easy to understand if somebody were off put by the wide variety in styles, including the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) influences from jazz and hip-hop. And even I wasn't too fond of “Cannabis Sativa”, the bizarre album closer which sounds like Primus playing with a horn section.

But to be honest, in terms of weaknesses, you could do a lot worse and in spite of the few misfires here, Nails is fresh and unique and stands as a great example of a band coming together to put out a compelling and serious musical statement late in their career.

Originally written for The Metal Observer.