Released: 2010, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
For those unfamiliar with Los Angeles’ Intronaut, consider them the band that Cynic could have been had they not taken a 15 year hiatus. Combining harmonious angst and musical arrangements with more complexity than a calculus test, Intronaut have built a solid rep for creating unique and edgy progressive metal. VALLEY OF SMOKE is the title of the band’s latest effort, and beyond being the best representation of Intronaut to date – it’s a consistently amazing and captivating slab of heavy.
Each track on VALLEY OF SMOKE acts as a story unto itself that collectively work to create a greater whole. The opening track “Elegy” pacifies you with voracious shouts and doom heavy riffs, teasing subtle interludes here and there to break the tension. Songs like “Above” and “Core Relations” offer a stark contrast to those aggressive tones by offering more subdued melodies and wide vocal harmonies. The instrumental title track is a free form jazz session, (which if you’re into that kind of stuff it’s really a brilliant track), while the closing “Past Tense” sums up all of these musical emotions into a whopper of a finale. It’s a complex album that demands repeated listens to fully appreciate, but once it clicks you’ll be hooked.
Musically, each of the four members of Intronaut delivers some amazing performances on VALLEY OF SMOKE, but the rhythm section of Joe Lester and Danny Walker are the true heroes of the day. Lester’s fretless bass work snakes and slides through each of the songs, providing additional dimensions of depth to each tune, while Walker sounds like a man in his own little universe. Check out the title track for further proof, but together these guys are jaw-droppingly good.
VALLEY OF SMOKE is a kind of antithesis to traditional prog-metal staples. There’s no over the top keyboard wankery, there’s no self-indulgent noodling – on the surface it’s a deceptively simple record, but under the surface there’s an entire valley to explore. VALLEY OF SMOKE is available now through Century Media Records.