01. Killing Birds With Stones
04. Sore Sight For Eyes
05. Milk Leg<
08. Blood From A Stone
09. The Way Down
I’ve been following Intronaut’s career since the release of Void back in 2006. I have bought every release since then, and I watched them play a captivating set to a criminally empty Camden Underworld a year or so ago. Yet, somehow, to these ears they never quite managed to fully deliver on the obvious potential they held.
However, with the release of fourth album Habitual Levitations, all this has changed.
This feels like Intronaut’s coming of age album. In the past, they seemed to me to come across as being a bit too clever for their own good, and just a touch too desperate to prove themselves – but maturity brings confidence, and this confidence has led them to lower the tempo and smooth off the jagged or frantic edges. In doing so, the band have uncovered a collection of songs of almost majestic beauty.
So the Intronaut sound of 2013 retains the jazz influences that have been so apparent in previous releases, but combines them with the expansiveness of later ISIS albums, the psychedelic sludge of Mastodon’s Crack the Skye and the muscular quirkiness of the Melvins.
And the results are enthralling. The languid, curiously accented introduction to album opener “Killing Birds With Stones” perfectly showcases what is to come: the musicianship is exceptional throughout; the riffs and beats are technical without being showy, and most importantly retain a strong sense of groove, even at their most unconventional.
There is plenty for musicians to nerd out on in these tracks, but extra special treats are in store for those most often over-looked in metal: the bass players. Joe Lester puts in a real tour de force of a bass performance, proving emphatically that plodding along on the root note is for sissies. He locks in with drummer Danny Walker to form a truly remarkable rhythm section. Together they lay down a solid bedrock for each song that nevertheless remains fluid and interesting throughout. Solid yet fluid? Yes indeed – and they manage to play tight but loose as well. I don’t quite know how, either, but this understated effortlessness make the complex polyrhythmic passages sound completely natural, which is definitely easier said than done.
It seems the band now really knows their strengths, and even the mix is set up to present them in the best possible light. The intricate, textural interplay between the guitars of Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick is augmented by the decision to often pan them hard left and hard right respectively. Giving each instrument this much space means even the most subtle flourishes are clearly distinguishable. This approach also allows the rhythm section to hold the centre ground, and not only that, but when the guitars do join forces, the results are immense. This is particularly apparent on stand-out track “The Welding“. This is definitely an album best heard through a good pair of headphones.
It’s obviously far too early to be talking in terms of albums of the year. Instead, what Intronaut have delivered is one of the first truly essential albums of 2013 for fans of post-metal and prog. It’s been a long time coming, but it has certainly been worth the wait.