INTRONAUT is an American progressive metal band whose sound is a mix of extreme metal and jazz fusion, in a similar vein to early CYNIC. I was first introduced to their music with 2013’s excellent Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones), that underplayed the extreme metal influences for a more atmospheric post-metal sound. Their upcoming The Direction of Last Things, however takes more after the band’s earlier material with a wash of harsh vocals and occasional crushing intensity. They also get a gold star for having the best looking album art of the year, and it’s not even close.
INTRONAUT has a knack for writing music that is both technically complex and at the same time catchy, and blisteringly heavy to boot. This sort of ambition is something that most bands simply don’t have the talent or cohesion to accomplish, but INTRONAUT manages the complexity in a way that’s totally organic and engaging. All of the instruments stand out as individual performances, and rarely are any of them playing something that closely resembles what another band member is doing.
There’s a certain OPETH-ian quality to the see-saw between riffs as heavy as a truck, and sublime jazz interludes, but I’m much more preferential to INTRONAUT’S light sections, rich with fretless bass and dream-like, airey guitar interplay that seems to bask in the aesthetic of the moment, without having any sort of clear direction. Bookending those sections with sludgy, heavily syncopated, dissonant heaviness achieves an effect that’s hard to follow, but more difficult to ignore.
Opening track, and lead single “Fast Worms” is a good introduction to what the album is about, pretty much every component mentioned above is present at one point or another. However, I’m more partial to the dramatic gravitas of “Sul Ponticello,” or the wall-to-wall drum clinic that powers “City Hymnal.” “The Direction of Last Things” has some incredible guitar riffs, and with all three of those at the end of the album, this is the rare disc that backends the best songs.
The Direction of Last Things is one of the better progressive releases of the year. Devin Townsend’s mix brings incredible clarity to what is already a well composed, technical fireworks show built around great melodies and killer riffs. There are a couple tracks that get a bit long-winded, and the variety on the album occasionally comes across as jarring, but overall I’m happy with how successful they are at living up to their tremendous ambition.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Fast Worms”, “Sul Ponticello”, “City Hymnal”