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Intronaut - Valley of Smoke CD (album) cover

VALLEY OF SMOKE

Intronaut

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.62 | 54 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
5 stars 'Valley Of Smoke' - Intronaut (9/10)

Despite still being a fairly underground genre, the world of post-metal has been slowly, but surely picking up speed over the past decade. While bands like Neurosis and Isis have reached near-mainstream success in metal, there are still legions of bands that remain obscure to the general listening public. Despite being one of the chief acts of the post-metal scene, such is the case of Los Angeles sludge quartet Intronaut. With 2008's 'Prehistoricisms,' they were instantly put on the map for their keen, powerful yet intelligent sound. Now, 2010's 'Valley Of Smoke' shows the band developing their sound to incorporate more of a jazz influence into their sludgy, distorted mix of post-metal. Through incredible performance, good songwriting and their best production values yet, Intronaut has crafted an excellent album.

When hearing Intronaut and their sound, I am reminded of a wide range of bands, from the riff-loving, ballsy heaviness of Bison B.C, to the subtle, beautiful aesthetics of many of post- rock's giants. What comes out is a sound that is a perfect marriage of two highly contrasting sounds, and instead of comparing and switching between the two, instead manages to fuse the two into a very fresh sound for progressive metal. In terms of style, one of the biggest things to mention about 'Valley Of Smoke' in particular is it's jazz-heavy influence. While the most 'in-your-face' aspect of the music may be the sludgy metal tone of the riffs, the guitars may often also use plenty of jazz-derived chords, at times even playing jazz chords through distortion; the result is a heavy yet intellectual experience.

While the songwriting on 'Valley Of Smoke' is very commendable, it would be nothing without a passionate performance from the musicians. Unlike many bands, Intronaut manages to balance each member's presence equally, so that a listener can hear the bassist's contribution just as much as the drummer, or experimental guitar work. With that being said, the album is mixed perfectly, and allows the listener to hear these tracks through the perfect lens. Of special note is the beautifully intricate drum work of Danny Walker, which never seems to be content with a simplistic beat, and the clean vocalist on the album, whose droning baritone works perfectly for the band's existing style. As an added bonus, the musical talents of Tool bassist Justin Chancellor are also heard, whose distinct tone can be heard in the album's title track.

The album's only real flaw comes in the last two tracks, with the epic title track 'Valley Of Smoke' and the close 'Past Tense.' While 'Valley Of Smoke' builds very nicely (beginning with some tribal percussion before building into a crushing riff), it does feel as if it overstays it's welcome by a minute or two, and while 'Past Tense' is as good a song as any other on the album, it feels awkward to have a typical Intronaut song follow such an involved instrumental epic.

While I had not heard the music of Intronaut in detail before 'Valley of Smoke', I am very impressed by the band's ethereal, yet crunchy approach to progressive metal. While the genre of post-metal is still underground even in the metal world, bands like Intronaut are evidently taking the reigns from the genre's previous giants and carrying the torch forward with pride. 'Valley Of Smoke' is one of the best performances of the year, and a sure contender to bless many year-end lists.

Conor Fynes | 5/5 |

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