Void is a killer first full-length album from Los Angeles-based metallers Intronaut. The members of this band all have an impressive resume in that they also played in other bands, including the black metal act Thornlord, death metal band Exhumed, grindcore bands Phobia and Uphill Battle, and the sludgy metalcore ensemble Anubis Rising, among others.
Intronaut sounds nothing like these bands though. It is more of a combination of these groups, but their music firmly lies in the sludge-driven metal area, much like Neurosis, Isis, and Mastodon. However, Intronaut writes faster songs that don't rely merely on creative riffs that are repeated endlessly; they like to juice their material up with strong rhythm combinations. Schooled bassist Joe Lester has studied all forms of music from jazz to funk to Indian tribal music, and he does a great job of weaving these elements into the songs. Drummer Danny Walker is equally vital in the band. His sparse, rhythm-conscious timing recalls greats like Tool's Danny Carey, but he also rips it up with intense double bass drums and high-speed beats, as he comes from a grindcore background. The duo dominate pretty much every song on the album, as they seem to be written around their ideas first and foremost.
The vocals of Sacha Dunable and Leon del Muerte, both of whom also play the guitar, are screamed in a metalcore-ish way, but there is also a good deal of low, gutteral vocals that drive their music onto death metal paths. On the gloomy "Iceblocks", a song so perfectly titled, they play single strokes of acoustic guitars that sound cold and lonely. The notes echo forever until a jazz-meets-funk drive of bass and drums solo briefly takes the lead only to underscore the relatively deeper growls and a ferocious kick drum experiment. This comes as a huge surprise, considering most bands favour screamed vocals in such musical settings. Not to say Intronaut's vocals are devoid of vicious screaming; "A Monolithic Vulgarity" perfectly emphasizes the band's Mastodon influences, underlining their thick, carefully timed riffage and prominent bass that stands out much like those on Cynic and Atheist albums. Towards the end, drummer Danny Walker puts in a tribal drum solo atop clean-toned acoustic guitars, and the result is more than impressive.
The dissonant "Gleamer" is filled with a smashing rhythm slam, noticeably heavier guitar riffery, and a cool, sludgy breakdown a la Isis' pre-Panopticon material. There are also significantly more complex chord progressions here, which seem to surround the band's atonal arrangements. The band opts for more technical elements on "Fault Lines", a song heavy on atmosphere and clean acoustic guitars. Despite the unusually complex multi-section guitar work, there are plenty of tense silences on this track coupled with weird drum syncopation and gurgling, independent sounding bass guitar. "Nostalgic Echo" is a song that continuously alternates between dense and crushing guitar crescendos and dreamy, pristine passages. The scream vocals on this song are amazing, as is its punishing finale.
"Teledidonics" is an epic-sized cut, once again evocative of Tool's drummer in that Danny Walker takes a very similar approach to rhythm build-ups, but they quickly move into jazzy sections that are punctuated by weird guitar effects and glistening cymbals. The ending to this song is particularly interesting, as they simply raise the distortion so high nothing else can be heard. "Rise to Midden" is another heavy tune with highly distorted guitar sounds where layers of feedback churn violently and are injected into atypical guitar and bass rhythms.
The European version of this disc features a great bonus track called "Fragments of Character" and if you like Intronaut, this is a song you won't want to miss. It is very different from the other songs; it begins in a pretty straightforward death metal vein with great death growls and melodic guitar riffs. However, at around the midpoint, Lester's galloping bass is reduced and replaced by undulating effects that are filtered through harmonically rich guitars. The piece finalises in a droney sense where strong drums continue to beat until the final second.
Void is a very strong start for Intronaut. If this type of music is your thing, you should check it out.
- A Monolithic Vulgarity
- Fault Lines
- Nostalgic Echo
- Rise to Midden
- Fragments of Character (Europe only bonus)