Intronaut Album Review
Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)
In 2010, I had the pleasure of witnessing one of my favorite local bands (The Maw) open up for Century Media recording artist, Intronaut. The show was on a Monday night (the day before their 2010 release, “Valley of Smoke”). There were maybe 11 people in attendance (without including any of the bands). As sad as that seems, it didn’t phase them. They absolutely slayed, and played as if they were playing in front of an audience of 500 or more. After the show, everyone involved with the show (including Intronaut) hung out all night. They were some super down to earth guys; people you could actually have an honest conversation with; none of that “rock star” bullshit. It left an immediate impression on me. Needless to say, I became a huge fan.
Fast-forward a couple years. In late 2012, an update went out on their Facebook page stating that they had entered the studio to record their next follow-up. I immediately began salivating at the aural possibilities. "Prehistorcisms" (2007) was a monster of a record, combining the best in down-tuned sludge and post-rock (with just enough death metal and jazz fusion elements to keep your head bobbing to the wee hours of the morning). The song writing was complex, but not overbearing and there were discernable hooks. “Valley of Smoke” was no different, although it featured tighter song writing and cleaner vocals versus the death growls. Needless to say, I was stoked for the new album.
So, what did we get? “Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)” was released in the middle of March this year. The first taste was a single titled “Milk Leg.” The second it was made available, it found its way onto my phone for further dissection. As much as I wanted it to be the same music that moved me, it was a ho-hum affair. There was not a single aggressive guitar part or tone (no pun intended) to be found, — but then again, this was just one song. Surely, the rest of the album would sound nothing like this, right? Wrong, “Habitual Levitations” and its extremely ridiculous parentheses’ title is essentially one long space-out session. I honestly found it difficult to sit through the entire album more than once. From the pretentiously long opening track “Killing Birds with Stones” to the very last drones and out of place synth at the end of “The Way Down,” the album drags and essentially goes nowhere…at the slowest pace possible.
Truth be told, there are indeed some interesting choices for guitar tones. “The Welding” features what might be the most reminiscent of their early work with its jazzy bass lines and afro-beat drum work (easily the high points of this album and all the more credit to bassist Joe Lester and drummer Danny Walker). However, I must reiterate that just when you think the song is about to pick up and snap your neck, the band pulls a fast one and goes for the pseudo-prog metal that’s become all-so-popular in the wake of bands aping Meshuggah.
Guitarists/vocalists Sascha Dunable and Dave Timnick do their best to not enunciate anything they are saying and without the lyric book in front of you, you’ll have a hard time figuring out what it is they are bellowing over the din of fuzzed out guitars. “Steps” features a siren like intro that could have very well been lifted from “Australopithecus” from “Prehistoricisms” before taking a complete nose dive into a riff that sounds like a cut-out riff from “The Literal Black Cloud” (from the same album). The chanting vocals add an even more unbearable drone to the already claustrophobic sound. Maybe this is what is wrong with my head, but I just kept getting images of Jim Carrey’s The Riddler from that terrible Batman movie (where he is cutting out all the words from newspapers: this must have been what he was listening too!).
“Sore Sight for Eyes” is easily the best track off the album; it has all the trademark Intronaut sound while still maintaining the duel clean vocals. The lead guitar work here is just plain epic and not once does the song suffer from the shoegazey self-indulgence midway through. Also, the interplay between bassist Joe Lester and drummer Danny Walker immediately stands out here as well. “Harmonomicon” returns to the snoozefest and that’s all I really care to say about it. “Eventual” starts off with the off-time guitar and drum interplay that is going to make you bang your head for sure but suffers due to the call and response type of vocal delivery and the now repetitious “we’re half way through the song, we better slow it down and go into an extended jam” syndrome.
I feel like I can’t stress this enough; the dudes in Intronaut (that’s really fun to say aloud) are awesome musicians — far better than I could ever hope to be, but because of their awesomeness (?) and their glorious back catalogue, this was a true letdown. If you’re looking for other artists to get your post metal fix on, I would highly encourage you to look elsewhere (See “Wavering Radiant” by Isis or “What We All Come to Need” by Pelican). However, if you do get the chance, Intronaut should be experienced live.