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Intronaut - The Direction of Last Things album art

The Direction of Last Things

13th November 2015 – Century Media Records

01. Fast Worms
02. Digital Gerrymandering
03. The Pleasant Surprise
04. The Unlikely Event Of A Water Landing
05. Sul Ponticello
06. The Direction Of Last Things
07. City Hymnal

As cliches go, ‘practice makes perfect’ is one that is both somewhat trite and also virtually inarguable. Intronaut‘s gradual refinement of their sound over a number of years produced 2013′s essential Habitual Levitations and it doesn’t take long with their fifth album The Direction of Last Things to be left in no doubt that they have not rested on their considerable laurels, and continued to practice hard since then.

Further indication comes in the very nature of the recording sessions: the record was committed to tape virtually live in just four days, before being handed over to a certain Mr Devin Townsend for mixing. The decision to record in such complex music in such a stripped-back, traditional fashion was a brave one, but it was a gamble that has paid off handsomely. It’s also a testament to what can be achieved by a band with a stable line-up for more than a decade, who are clearly all pulling in the same direction – and also, to a man, riotously talented.

As lead single and opening track “Fast Worms” proves, The Direction of Last Things contains a few more ventures into the heavier waters of their back catalogue than Habitual Levitations did. The track erupts with a huge and characteristically off-kilter riff from guitarists Sacha and Dave, with Joe’s distinctive fretless bass bubbling up from within it. “Fast Worms” then proceeds to set off on its own little sonic adventure, with its labyrinthine song structure ultimately leading from frantic heaviness to a relaxed and jazzy interlude, complete with more impossibly smooth bass runs, before one final burst of heaviness.

The Direction of Last Things may be comprised of only seven songs, but Intronaut cram a startling number of good ideas into each and every one of them. Both “Digital Gerrymandering” and “Sul Ponticello” push and pull at their elastic time-signatures, with lurching, lumbering grooves. “The Pleasant Surprise” is both the shortest and most straightforward track on offer here, with its churning, sludgey riff melting into the blissed out introduction to “The Unlikely Event of a Water Landing“. This track, in turn, lulls the listener into a false sense of security before ambushing them with a jarring modal riff that only starts to make sense after repeated listens, before slipping back into more mellifluous territory.

Ultimately, The Direction of Last Things is a sonic stew where elements of Leviathan-era Mastodon, Isis, Jane’s Addiction, Tool and a big book of jazz techniques have been left to simmer on the stove together, and the results are every bit as tender and flavourful as one would expect. As with Habitual Levitations, Sacha and Dave’s guitars are often panned hard-left and hard-right, making listening through a good pair of headphones both essential, and a total delight. The title track itself contains one of the best examples, with their separate, syncopated chugging rhythms expertly interwoven together to devastating effect.

What really sets Intronaut apart from the pack – and seemingly with a distance that increases with each release – is that their songs may contain moments of headbending complexity, but still retain the very clear feeling that they are the product of rehearsal room jam sessions. As a result, the songs have a loose, organic feel compared to the sometimes clinical approach of their peers. Fundamentally, these are songs that feel like they have been grown, rather than constructed in laboratory conditions.

Perhaps the only criticism that can meaningfully be levelled at The Direction of Last Things is that final track “City Hymnal” doesn’t quite provide the grand finale one might have expected from the album, ending more in a whimper than a bang, but this slightly unsatisfactory conclusion does not detract from the absorbing journey the album constitutes.

With a broader palette of sounds than its predecessor, more of those incredible polyrhythmic passages that have become their calling card, as well as further evidence that they possess potentially the most innovative and exciting rhythm section of pretty much any progressive metal band operating today, The Direction of Last Things is an absolute triumph, and should be considered mandatory listening for any with even the slightest interest in boundary-pushing music.