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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review: Intronaut - The Direction Of Last Things

Intronaut is a Califonia based progressive metal band which was formed in 2004. Of the starting line-up vocalist/guitarist Sacha Dunable, bass player Joe Lester and drummer Danny Walker are still present. Guitarist/vocalist Leon del Müerte has been replaced by guitarist Dave Timnick in 2007, making their line-up stable for some eight years, which is clearly audible. Their 2006 full-length debut ‘Void’ instantly made a name for them, and from there on they kept innovating themselves, their music and their skills, which did not always land too well with (some of) their fans. Especially predecessor ‘Habitual levitations’ caused some mixed feelings, mostly due to its innovative and thus different nature. This seemingly did not go unnoticed by the boys, because here is ‘The direction of last things’.

After reading the accompanying bio- and info sheet, one could be forgiven for thinking to be in for the surprise of the year with Intronaut’s new, fifth release ‘The direction of last things’. Apparently this their ‘most technical, brutal, catchy, and straight up fearless’ piece of work. Considering their previous work, Intronaut has had little brutal metal influences so far, I tend to agree with this. However, it of course all is a matter of what you compare things to. To be honest I feel the term brutal is a bit out of place when describing the music Intronaut plays. The only thing I could be tempted to call brutal is the song ‘The pleasant surprise’, which indeed is as its title suggests. It’s a crushing metal song, which you’d expect on a death metal album rather than on a progressive album in the style of Intronaut.

Nevertheless ‘The direction…’ definitely finds its place on the rougher side of Intronaut’s discography so far, more rubbing against their ‘Void’ style than anything else. And that is not a bad thing to be honest. Opener ‘Fast worms’ is a song with different faces, starting quite heavy with harsh vocals, only to evolve into a progressive piece in the middle which in turn leads back to the heavy tunes from the first part to end the song. If I were to describe Intronaut’s music, I’d simply play this song. Both ends of their musical spectrum combined in a single song. Next up is a typical prog song, spanning over eight minutes called ‘Digital gerrymandering’. Sacha’s clean vocals and Danny’s striking drum work, which seems out of pace, but in fact is not, make this a tough song to comprehend, yet it is not over-complicated.

Then, as if they felt the need to go off the beaten track, ‘The pleasant surprise’ tortures your ear drums. In a positive way of course… it’s a great song, even though it very much differs from the rest of the songs on ‘The direction…’. This musical ramble doesn’t last however, because with ‘The unlikely event of a water landing’ the boys go back to their progressive path with another eight minutes plus piece of work. Again a solid song with lots of intermezzos and changes in pace. Then there’s ‘Sul ponticello’, a heavier song with strong resemblances to Dream Theater. Together with the heavy ‘The pleasant surprise’, this is their best work on the album. Music, vocals, structure, everything in this song is perfectly balanced and in sync. The end is not my taste, though.

With only two more songs left, title track ‘The direction of last things’ turns the speed up a notch, which they seem to be equally comfortable playing as they are playing progressive, adding some more variety to this album. Closer ‘City hymnal’ with its spacey, atmospheric intermezzo is, I suppose, the only right way to end this album, leaving you with the feeling you have just witnessed something good, but there’s no way you can actually describe it.

‘The direction…’ is an album that will keep you busy for a while, even when you are not actually playing it. Its variation within the songs, ranging from atmospheric to death, leave a remarkable imprint. As unlikely as the combination might seem, Intronaut manages to make the two extremes actually augment each other instead of rivaling, not in the last place because of the great song structures. The musicians are outstanding, with drummer Danny Walker as the star. His impressive performance really stands out.

As with all progressive albums this is not music you play to relax, you play this one to experience music, which narrows the database of potential listeners down quite a bit. However, for a prog album this one is relatively easy to digest, most likely because of the combination of styles. On top of that the album has been recorded in only four days, making this almost a live recording, which was what the guys intended, so it’s certainly worth a listen. If all this still does not convince you to try this one, maybe the fact it has been mixed, and flawlessly I might add, by Devin Townsend himself might help.

Written by Henric van Essen

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