In the slipstream of Down and Mastodon sludge metal is getting popular nowadays. Bands like Kylesa, Baroness and Black Tusk quickly followed each other. Los Angeles based Intronaut is another leaf on the great sludge tree, but rather an awkward one. They’re heavily influenced by jazz and progressive rock, thus creating a unique sound of their own. Both Void (2006) and Prehistoricisms (2008) are masterpieces in my book, so let’s see whether their new album, Valley Of Smoke, can hold its own against his illustrious predecessors.
I have to admit it actually does. Valley Of Smoke picks up where Prehistoricisms left off. In terms of song writing, dynamics, jazzy time changes and other progressive wizardry Intronaut really took things to a new level and without getting marooned in the notorious Dream Theater bog of pointless and rampant instrumental masturbation. That’s quite an achievement, certainly compared to prog standards.
Valley Of Smoke starts in typical fashion with Elegy, Above and Miasma, complete with Joe Lester’s signature jazzy bass lines, intricate melody lines in the best Cynic tradition and sludgy guitar riffs drenched in psychedelics. Simply Intronaut at their best. Compared to the previous album, Valley Of Smoke contains more clean vocal parts, tastefully added in songs like Core Relations, Past Tence and the aforementioned Miasma and Above. Tool seems to be another important reference point, especially when it comes to song arrangements. The connection with Tool is further strengthened by the guest appearance of Justin Chancellor on the title track.
The album also contains two shorter and more furious tracks in the form of Sunderance and Below. Those songs are just as potent and catchy as Mastodon’s Blood And Thunder and The Wolf Is Loose. Simply great stuff!
Another noteworthy advance is made in the sound department. Valley Of Smoke has the best production Intronaut has ever had. It’s clear enough so that every instrument is audible, but gritty enough to retain the familiar sludge feel.
Valley Of Smoke by Intronaut combines the best elements from sludge metal, progressive rock and jazz captured in intelligent and adventurous compositions. Arguably their best effort to date!
written by Raymond Westland