Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia
Sometimes it takes a couple of albums for some bands to find a sound and direction that they’re truly comfortable with, which tends to mean that their first couple of releases are generally overlooked for the most part. And then there are some bands that know straight from the start what sound they’re after, and generally stick with that sound throughout most of their career.
But then there’s that small minority of acts who are constantly on the search for that something different from one release to the next, which makes them near impossible to pin down. One such act that well and truly fits into this mould is Los Angeles (California, U.S.) based outfit Intronaut.
Over the course of their three full-length releases to date (2006’s ‘Void’, 2008’s ‘Prehistoricisms’ and 2010’s ‘Valley Of Smoke’), the four piece act (Comprising of vocalist/guitarists Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick, bassist Joe Lester and drummer Danny Walker) have incorporated stoner metal, psychedelic rock, jazz and groove metal into their sound, which has earned the band their broader progressive metal genre tag, despite having a sound that’s completely different from anyone else within the progressive metal scene.
Now returning with ‘Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)’, it’s clear that Intronaut still isn’t remotely interested in making the same album over and over again. Taking the lead set by ‘Valley Of Smoke’, Intronaut have made a concerted effort to push themselves artistically once more by tapering back the heavier and more metallic aspects of their overall sound, both musically and vocally.
The eight minute opening track ‘Killing Birds With Stones’ sets the tone for the bulk of the album with its weaving/thick sounding riffs, oddly timed/rhythmic drumming patterns and its slow moving tempos and gradual evolution from one musical idea to the next. The trademark elements of Intronaut’s old sound are still here for the most part, with the track featuring plenty of cool riffs, heavily grooved and rhythmic passages and pockets of atmospheric interludes to give the song a huge feel. But what separates this song from anything the band has recorded in the past can be primarily heard on the vocal front. The growled efforts of the past are all but gone, with Dunable utilising his clean vocals throughout the song. While ‘Valley Of Smoke’ featured a lot of clean vocals, it’s on the band’s latest release that the clean vocals are used almost exclusively. Simply put, it’s something that does take a bit of getting used to. Musically, the band have toned things down to make way for the cleaner vocals, which can give the impression that the song is a little too long in places, and lacking a bit of spark on the heavier passages. But after several listens, it’s clear that time is needed to fully appreciate the intricacies of the band’s song writing. And once those ideas are understood, it’s hard to deny the power the opening track has.
Despite toning down the metallic edge on Intronaut’s latest release, it doesn’t mean that the band has completely abandoned the heavier side of things, with the crushing complexity of ‘The Welding’ and the rhythmically jagged first single ‘Milk Leg’ showcasing the band’s willingness to keep things bludgeoning – albeit with harmony vocals in tow and a general sparseness behind the pulverising riffs.
The sludgy ‘Steps’ is a personal favourite with the band perfecting their intense and heavy atmospheric sound alongside dual harmony vocals, while the hypnotic and melodic pair of ‘Sore Sight For Eyes’ and ‘Harmonomicon’ are definite favourites further on into the album.
‘Eventual’ sounds like equal parts Meshuggah and Black Sabbath with more than a touch of psychedelic rock to really spice things up, while the rather short ‘Blood From A Stone’ is by far the strangest track on the album, with the band retaining a mellow and atmospheric vibe throughout. Finishing up the album is ‘The Way Down’, which not unlike the opener, is a cathartic mix of the intense and the heavy, but delivered with a sense of melody and restrain that allows the playing abilities of all within the band to shine.
Much like all their former releases, ‘Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)’ is an album that takes a while to fully appreciate and understand. If you were pleased with the direction the band took on ‘Valley Of Smoke’, then you’ll no doubt embrace the band’s latest release sooner than most. If on the other hand you were less than enthused with ‘Valley Of Smoke’, then you might want to allow a little longer for ‘Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones)’ to finally reveal itself to you.
For more information on Intronaut, check out - https://www.facebook.com/Intronaut
© Justin Donnelly