astodon, move aside. Comparisons between Intronaut and the metal giants of the moment are inevitable, as both have complex songs, gruff vocals, crunchy guitars, and limber rhythm sections. But while Mastodon took an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to Blood Mountain, Intronaut sounds like a human ensemble—two guitars, drums, bass, vocals, nothing more. Songs flow naturally through peaks and valleys, with riffs that are both gut-busting and heart-touching. If scaling Blood Mountain leaves you exhausted, settle in for Void's much more fulfilling journey.
It's hard to believe this is Intronaut's first full-length, as the band plays with the telepathic interaction of seasoned veterans. The members are veterans, though of vastly different scenes—grindcore, doom, and in the case of bassist Joe Lester, jazz, funk, and traditional Indian music. The band members' resumes include Impaled, Exhumed, Uphill Battle, Anubis Rising, and Phobia, yet Intronaut sounds nothing like these bands. Its debut EP Null was a stunning foray into the heavy abstraction that Neurosis, Isis, and Mastodon popularized. Void more than fulfills its promise.
Lester is the key. Not since Steve DiGiorgio's fretless work in Death has metal bass playing been so rich and lively. Once in a blue moon there's a Steve Harris or Cliff Burton, but the vast majority of metal bassists merely double guitarists by simply playing roots. Not so with Lester, who pretty much runs the show here. In fact, the guitars often swing up to upper-register textures, letting Lester sketch out chord progressions. The frequent result is a jazz fusion feel, minus the instrumental wankery.
But metalheads, fret not—those luscious clean tones in "Teledildonics" merely make the main riffs seem tougher. "Gleamer" sends diminished runs and Cannibal Corpse-esque pinch harmonics into a storm of turbulent riffs and martial drums. The brutal syncopations in "Fault Lines" are the sonic equivalent of dragging a body across a bumpy road. The gleaming tones of "Nostalgic Echo" recall some long-lost '80s pop song before yielding to rolling odd meters and harrowing dissonance. Danny Walker's fluid drumming complements Lester's lines, and gives Brann Dailor a run for his money.
The only weak spot is the relatively faceless vocals. However, they occur in all the right places, with tastefully abstract lyrics: "We are such low things / With null for a name / The inner monologue exposed / But the curtain is drawn closed." It's rare that a metal band has something to say, yet shows without telling. Rarer still is an ensemble that plays with this much natural, vibrant feeling.