Intronaut – Prehistoricisms

Lots of people like to bandy about their choice for “Best Metal Outfit on the Planet”; some say Mastodon, some say Isis, and some, like me, say it’s impossible to make such a judgment. As time goes on, genres are becoming less and less like definitive lines and more like spectrums, with levels of extremes on each side. Intronaut are a hard band to pitch simply because they fit into so many sub-genres of Metal music. They have the wander of Post-Metal like Isis, the bass throb of Jazz Metal like Pestilence, the drudge of Sludge Metal like Mastodon, the quick changes of Math Metal like Protest the Hero, but when you categorize it as one simple thing, it always feels like you’re leaving something out.

I appreciate this; if you’re going to make music, why do what everyone else does? It pays to have widespread abilities, and Intronaut have the talent and skill to do it all extremely well; unlike Isis who tend to linger for too long or Protest the Hero who tend to become unfocused, or even Mastodon who tend to get dizzily fill-crazy, Intronaut never break the equilibrium. Equal parts crunchy riffs with throaty yells and jazzy, exotic bass lines and drum exploration, these guys know how to frame a song, and on Prehistoricisms, they absolutely nail it unlike almost any other Metal band before them. Released in 2008 to almost complete silence, this one flew under a lot of people’s radars, but know that I see conversation cropping up about it as word-of-mouth spreads, I’m here to give my impressions. Put simply, buy this album. Sleeper hit of 2008. Maybe Metal Album of the Year. Here’s why.

Prehistoricisms takes a loose concept of the primordial evolution of man, which is basically the most ideal setting for any type of Sludge release to take place in; an era of mankind with hot, moist, temperate weather and where no men, but only beasts in the shape of humanoid creatures. Taking something that is ostensibly human and making it this inhuman beast is an ambitious effort to undertake, and through pure talent and technical skill, these guys pull it off flawlessly. Their lyrics don’t tell of a man growing and his struggles, or of any type of broad-scoped sightseeing, but instead they hint only at these esoteric emotions and actions, with the song titles themselves being used as the binding of context to turn these manic generalities into a world of Black clouds, primordial ooze, and bloody dens of dining.

Where the album truly shines though is in the technical aspects, the distant, faint guitar lines sounding like violins against brilliant, evolving drum patterns and wandering, full bass playing. The guitars generally stick to chords or heavy one-string lines; the playing is quite good, even if some would accuse it as simplistic, but they would be missing the point. Intronaut are not ones to pimp solos (which rarely, if ever actually occur) or over-gloss their guitars with pounds of Gain, but instead stick to practical techniques that form the basic backbone of the band’s dynamics. The guitars do stray from the path and evolve, but the point of them is to keep the measure while the drums and bass explore far beyond the boundaries that most Metal bands are willing to allow, and it’s all the better for it.

Metal bands are almost phallocentric in the way they band dynamics, with the two guitarists put front-and-center to impress everyone with the way they move so gracefully from string to string, where as the bass is constricted to miming status. Intronaut say nuts to this, propping the bass at the very center of their music, and especially on Prehistoricisms, where the instrument leads the charge. The bass lines are not overly-technical or quick, nor are they a slap and pop deal; instead, the effect is a very smooth, very exotic sound that bands like Obscura also use. It’s a very evocative sound that holds together the album brilliantly, and the mixture of lingering tones and quick bursts of individual notes create an effect that is brilliantly understated and extremely absorbing.

However, this is by no means a one man show, with the drum work being some of the best you’ll ever hear. It’s not the Black Metal or Tech Death Metal smacking that sounds like it almost can’t keep up, but instead is a Masotdon-esque focus on evolving fills. However, unlike Mastodon, Intronaut tend to focus on every aspect of the kit, with cymbals crashing just as much as the bass kicks. It’s a diplomatic effort that is a far cry from typical metal focus upon the leather, and is all the better for it. That’s the story for the entire album, with each instruments doing something that is very atypical for the genre, yet it all goes together so seamlessly that it’s startling. This is definitely the type of album takes a couple of listens to get it, with almost too much too absorb in the way of shifting song dynamics. There’s not a single weak song on the album, with each one, from start to finish, having memorable moments sprinkled throughout, whether it be the dizzying onslaught of every instrument doing riff after riff or the jazzy interludes that truly add something idiosyncratic to each song, it’s imply a joy to listen to.

However, as well-done as every song is, the true showstopper is the final 16-minute-epic “The Reptilian Brain”. It starts out with 5 minutes of exotic, traditional Indian music, which simply works in the context of the album, and slowly, drifting out of this comes a bass thumps. Slowly, the song goes from traditional Indian to a Fusion-esque combination of the bass thumping, the drums pulling rhythm after rhythm, and the guitars sticking to a one-two pattern between notes. However, the song goes through evolution after evolution, with some parts bass-driven and wandering and others spastic and heavy, with guitars crunching and drums wailing. It’s brilliant songwriting and it perfectly captures the evolution motif the entire album contains.

There’s no two ways about it; this album is rife with terrific instrument playing all around, great songwriting, evocative lyrics that are delivered through a satisfying throaty yell, and an idiosyncratic sound that only Intronaut can make. These guys are making a sound that is totally original and also totally arresting. Let this album sink into you and you’ll find some of the most original Metal you’ll listen to anytime soon. Ahead of it’s time, yet stuck back in the stone age, Prehistoricisms is an absolute triumph.

Score: A

by Trevor “Crawling out of the tar” Johnson

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