Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Intronaut: Valley of Smoke (2010)


Rising metal stars Intronaut released their third full-length last week. In case you're not familiar with them, they are to sludge metal what recent touring companion Cynic is to death metal. In other words, jazz-influenced progressive sludge.

Valley of Smoke is a major evolution from 2008's Prehistoricisms. It takes the jazz even further, and introduces airier compositions and clean vocals to Intronaut's repertoire. The vocals this time around will draw immediate comparisons to Baroness, and since they're both progressive sludge bands there are other superficial similarities. The songwriting is quite different, however.

First and foremost, bass aficianados will be very pleased by the prominence and excellence of Joe Lester's work. Those who think sludge needs to always be heavy will be turned off by the lightness of some tracks (especially "Above"), but heaviness is here in many places (like opener "Elegy"). There's also a lot of variety in drumming and guitar styles.

It's not an album built around catchy songs. This album seems based in the same school of thought as 1970's progressive rock, at a time when progressive always went hand-in-hand with psychedelic. It's meant to be listened to in its entirety, alone, with headphones in a quiet room, with no distractions. I rarely get that kind of luxury, so I can't get in the right frame of mind to listen to it. Even so, I can tell it's quite good.

The Verdict: Intronaut will continue to be a rising star in the metal scene if they keep producing albums like this, and pushing themselves into new territory. Being so airy and trippy, it's not exactly my kind of thing, but it's good enough to earn 4 out of 5 stars from me.

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