CD Review: INTRONAUT- Valley of Smoke
- Posted on October 26, 2010
by Kit Brown
With Intronaut’s previous sophomore release, Prehistoricisms, the band had really seemed to take post-metal to uncharted territories. Combining the raw sludge and aggression of Neurosis with a strong hardcore/metalcore influence and sprinkling on top one of the strongest rhythm sections in the game today, the band seemed destined to raise a lot of eyebrows. While not gathering a particularly large fan base, the band has received many positive reviews and is constantly hailed as one of the more intriguing bands in American metal. Needless to say, the band had a lot to live up to with their third album. Would Valley of Smoke continue down the same path the band had been carving out for themselves since their inception, or delve into new creative endeavors?
It’s a combination of both, really. Valley of Smoke certainly offers familiar aspects of Intronaut’s past two full-length albums, but the band really begin to find themselves emulating many more well-known bands in their scene. While the album’s blistering opening track and single, “Elegy” starts off the album strongly with a crushing main riff (in drop F# tuning, I might add!), it’s obvious to hear the new changes in vocal style. Guitarists and vocalists Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick have adopted a much more melodic vocal style this time around, sounding eerily similar to Aaron Turner from ISIS. While it’s a refreshing new trick the band has up their sleeve, it’s sadly used far too often. In fact, you’ll hear it far more often than the band’s much more engaging and menacing screams; something I had really come to love about the band, particularly in their live show. You’ll still get some heavier moments in tracks like “Sunderance” and “Past Tense”, but Intronaut seems to be actively practicing restraint way more than ever before.
What has probably become the most interesting part about Valley of Smoke has to be the rhythm section. Drummer Danny Walker without a doubt steals the show here, taking almost every section on the album to a much more musically demanding level. Walker’s frequent use of groove and ghost-notes in tracks like “Above” and experimentation with polyrhythmic beats in the album’s most progressive track “Valley of Smoke” have solidified his performance as one of the more interesting and impressive of the year in metal. The bass performances from Joe Lester have also come to be one of the most defining aspects of Intronaut’s sound, as his incredibly thick and frequently Cynic-influenced bass lines always cut through and give the listener that much more to latch onto. The album’s first two tracks offer the most impressive bass moments on Valley of Smoke; “Elegy” locks the band in the album’s most defining and memorable groove and “Above” experiments with bass chords on top of dual, independent guitar riffs. Paul Masvidal, eat your heart out!
Despite the superb performance from the band’s rhythm section, I can’t help but feel a bit let down by Valley of Smoke. While “Elegy” and the title track have really broke new ground for the band and laid the template for what undoubtedly will come in the next few years for the band, a lot of the album only feels half-baked. The entire middle section of the album settles into a sweet spot, frequently relying on the layered vocal melodies too much. It just seems to be following a trend that many American post-metal bands want to follow, rather than continuing on the more adventurous path that Prehistoricisms displayed. Also, the newly melodic style has taken away more of the disgusting, dissonant, hardcore elements that had been a huge part of albums past. Kudos to the band for trying to branch out from their old sound, but instead they simply adapted styles and elements that had already been excellently covered by other post-metal and prog-metal outfits. Still, if there’s anything that Valley of Smoke proves, it’s that Intronaut are honing their skills and quickly rising to be one of the more technically proficient underground metal acts in the country. Look out, stoners and prog-nerds alike!