Intronaut - _Void_
(Goodfellow Records, 2006)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (10 out of 10)
Displaced, reverberating chords, jazzy time signature changes, intrusive stand up bass patterns... Los Angeles post-metal mavens Intronaut gather up every forward thinking influence they can lay their hands on -- from Tool to Mastodon to Pelican, Meshuggah, Converge, Neurosis, etc., with maybe even a cursory kick back to old Voivod -- and, with debut long player _Void_, stake their claim as the band wearing the -real- daddy pants in the genre. The droning atmospherics cribbed from a wide phalanx of art metal wankers is enthrallingly grounded by the rhythm section, truly the linchpin of the group.

Skinsman Danny Walker (formerly of Uphill Battle and Thornlord) emerges as the unholy bastard child of Dave Lombardo and Neil Peart, and his work in previous bands does nothing to prepare one for the mastery of his instrument on display here (this could be said about his bandmates as well). Utilizing toms and snares with equal aplomb as the obligatory double bass, Walker is equally at home barreling his way through a mesmerizing sequence of off-kilter time changes as he is exercising restraint; above all the song comes first, yet it's bewildering to what extent the quartet are able to push the envelope of progressive structures to the breaking point and avoid the pitfalls of pretentiousness and pomposity. He also has a way of sliding around, ahead of and behind the beat, as at about the 1:15 mark of "Gleamer", where he initially sticks to the one-beat-per-measure rhythm of the whole note guitar chords, but the second the song speeds up we find Walker skittering all over the place in a manner not altogether dissimilar to Tomas Haake of Meshuggah.

Walker's partner on the backbeat, Joe Lester, whose website profile lists him modestly as a "Charles Mingus wannabe", mans the standard electric bass with an equivalent alacrity to his forays on stand up bass when the song calls for a little more of a bebop backbone. At times, as on "Teledildonics", he switches between the two in mid-song during the jazzier interludes. His affinity with Walker's rhythmic sensibilities is almost telekinetic, and it's interesting to try to discern which instrumental parts were written first, as the bass and drums seem to mostly complement the guitars, but at the same time are typically vastly more complex.

Elsewhere, the six string tandem of Leon del Muerte and Sacha Dunable slide effortlessly between the discordant hardcore riffing of a band like Converge and an appreciation for the melodic atmospherics of a Tool or Isis. "Nostalgic Echo" most ably makes this case, the shimmering, wistful chords which introduce the song trading off with a hyper-aggro nerve assault; these two elements, initially butted jarringly against each other, by song's end have come to a sort of karmic truce, the brutal elements having taken on a large degree of the beaten down forlornness it earlier lashed out against.

"Rise to Midden" is the album's primary nod to the out and out death metal influence which characterized last year's _Null_ EP. Not to pigeonhole themselves that easily, the band deconstruct themselves until they're left with squalling guitar histrionics which are again underwritten by Lester's upright bass noodlings. Afterward, the death metal vox and riffing re-emerge, but this time tempered with the post-metal raison d'ĂȘtre Intronaut comes into this world and leaves with. By the end of the song, the brutality is gone altogether and all that's left is an emotive stab at mood evocation. A fitting finale to what has been a 43-minute roller coaster ride.

In all, Intronaut proves to be the most musically accomplished of all the post / prog bands, at least those that have recently inspired the media to pen articles about how metal has gotten "smarter" while no one had their eye on it (no one in the media, at least). The interplay amongst musicians is simply staggering, which allows them to construct gratuity-free sonic monuments to the twin ideals of intellect and creativity. _Void_ is no less than an instant classic, and somewhere on this earth it's to be hoped that some reverent soul is whipping together some wet cement with which to immortalize these gentlemen "walk of fame" style.


(article published 25/5/2007)

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