Review: Intronaut’s Latest Trip Takes a Turn
One of those great nearly-genreless bands is back with another enigma. How does it stack up?
Even as far back as the Null and Void days of 2005/6, Intronaut has largely been doing the same thing for 10 years if you account for heaviness inflation, which of course is the tendency for heavy bands to get slightly more melodic and (hopefully) dynamic over the course of their career. All things considered, Intronaut’s inflation levels are pretty low. Many instrumental sections throughout the old material could easily be remastered and plopped right into a track from The Direction of Last Things and no one would notice. The only major change over time was the frequency of clean vs. harsh vocals when Valley of Smoke dropped, but even that lighter chanting style was featured on Void’s “Nostalgic Echo.” Every other change between albums is on par with average heaviness inflation rates accounting for slight thematic adjustments.
Taking that all into account, I’m probably in the minority in thinking that Intronaut has improved in every way album-to-album (I see a lot of partiality to Prehistoricisms, which is fair) but I’m having a hard time seeing Fluid Existential Inversions as a logical progression from 2015’s release. I can no longer say “cool, this thing is just a slightly improved version of the thing before.”
So what is it then? Fluid Existential Inversions is far denser and more angular than anything they have produced, almost to a fault. On first listen, very few of the tracks immediately land in the way they used to. There are fewer hypnotic grooves to latch on to, the verses are a little more abrasive, and it’s often dark and disorienting; however, every one of those hurdles was resolved for me on subsequent spins. The collection of stray pieces eventually reveal their shape and interlock with whatever is adjacent. Even the jagged ends become a groove you look forward to hearing again. The 2020 version of Intronaut somehow cranked up the dynamic part of heaviness inflation while also stepping back to Prehistoricisms‘ level of aggression. This is best exemplified by the intros of “Check Your Misfortune” and “The Cull,” which are unrelentingly heavy but followed by extremely hook-filled post-metal atmospherics.
Even with these changes, they are still undoubtedly Intronaut. They still have the hypnotic grooves, weird and rapid shifts in tone, the psychedelics are in full swing, and that alien-voice bass tone is just as often playing against the track as with it. With the unceremonious dumping of their drummer before this recording, I was a little worried about their ability to keep up one of the consistently most insane aspects of their discography. Alex Rudinger (ex-Faceless, Whitechapel) annihilated those fears with one of the wildest drum performances I’ve ever heard; the first 12 seconds of “Cubensis” is all the proof you need. To top it all off, the production, especially on the super punchy drum kit, is essentially perfect.
It’s always nice when an old favorite can still surprise you. Fluid Existential Inversions is going to be less of an insta-hit than they are capable of providing, but the depth makes its staying power inevitable for those who try. Check it out this Friday.
Intronaut are on tour NOW with Cult of Luna and Chelsea Wolfe (a lineup tailored exclusively for me, it seems). Come find me at the Chicago show. I hate doing this because I generally only review things that match the hype I have for them, but: