posted on 2/2008 By:
So we're a little behind schedule on this review of Intronaut's latest; our collective bad. This band has garnered quite a bit of attention in their brief existence, building a sizeable fanbase and scoring a slot on Century Media's roster on the strength of their debut EP Null and the follow-up full length Void in the space of just two years. Their success is well-deserved--these dudes reek of talent, and it seems inevitable that they'll drop a real showstopper of an album some time in the near future. They haven't done so yet, though, and The Challenger isn't about to change that; this stopgap EP displays their continued songwriting aplomb and showcases their dexterity in a live setting without really expanding on their catalogue of songwriting tricks.
See, I think Intronaut is the type of band that will dominate underground metal in the future--not that they themselves necessarily will rule the day, but my bet is that their kin will. These guys have all the hallmarks of quality metal music, from technical dexterity to a wealth of songwriting textures to an endless arsenal of kinetics-loaded guitar riffs. The crucial point is their ability to employ all these capacities without fitting comfortably into any particular stylistic box. In fact, if I had to play the name-dropping game for these guys, I'd have to go with some combination of Swarm of the Lotus, Burst, and Knut--all distinctly genre-bending bands in their own right.
This amorphous, relentlessly modern brand of metal has served Intronaut well in the past, and they seem content to hammer away with their general formula on The Challenger. The real meat of this EP which ironically has the longest run time of any Intronaut release) consists of its three new tracks, which neatly sum up the band's variety of songwriting modes. "The Challenger" arrives in a flurry of rolls from ace drummer Danny Walker (Uphill Battle, Exhumed, Phobia) before launching into a tangle of knotted grooves and convulsive shifts. The song just barely opens up and breathes in a bit of harmony before its conclusion, foreshadowing "Whittler of Fortune." This, in turn, is one of Intronaut's strongest songs to date; guitarists Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick trade wistful, soaring melodies while never straying from Walker and bassist Joe Lester's incessantly shifting rhythms or surrendering any of their churning intensity. The final new track is a more subdued affair that leans on an ISIS-style rise and fall dynamic; while the song's climax is suitably contorted and it's nice to hear Lester play a more prominent role, the track's arc is just a wee bit too predictable to work in the context of Intronaut's relentless sleight of hand.
The remainder of The Challenger is composed of five live tracks from Intronaut's previous releases and a truncated remix of "Burning These Days" from Dunable. It's clear from the live cuts that these fellas are fully capable of doing just as well on stage as in the studio. Meanwhile, the remix is something of a throwaway--the juxtaposition of the original's heaving rhythm guitars with quicksilver electronica is more novel than listenable.
All in all, The Challenger is a middling release for these up-and-comers; they tread water a little on the new tracks (good water notwithstanding), but even so they'll please their fans for long enough to get another slam-bang full length out the door.
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