Valley of Smoke
05. Core Relations
07. Valley Of Smoke
08. Past Tense
[Century Media | 10/12/10]
Post, progressive, sludge, experimental, you name it, LA’s Intronaut have their hands full when it comes to having depth of range in their music. When they released their first EP Null back in 2005, it showcased the band as a progressive metal outfit with a touch of melody and aggression. And speaking of melody, Intronaut do a damn good job of it on their albums, which cannot be said of many bands nowadays. Since then, they’ve released another EP, The Challenger (2007), and two full-length albums, Void (2006) and Prehistoricisms (2008), all of them being powerhouse albums which propelled the band further into the progressive metal genre. Their newest full-length album, Valley of Smoke, which will be released on October 12, 2010 through Century Media Records, is a continuation of their past work, plus a whole lot more.
Valley of Smoke greets your ears with the natural and raw sound of feedback on the opening track “Elegy”, soon after, heavy down-tuned guitars, unusual rhythms and tones, and well-versed vocals take over and immerse the listener in a complete soundscape where everything comes together perfectly. Joe Lester once again shines on bass and makes himself known throughout with crystal clear notes that work well alongside the heavy riffs of Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick. The deep and strained growls, provided by Sacha, are spread throughout the album and come in when needed and are never overdone, and the jazz influenced style of drummer Danny Walker propels this album to a whole other level.
One of the main differences I noticed with Valley of Smoke when compared to previous albums, the singing is more prominent this time around. Sacha implements both harsh and clean vocals throughout the album to give the songs more depth and feeling, but the cleaner vocals take the forefront for most of the album. But what I enjoy most about his vocals is they never seem rushed or forced, they flow right alongside the music. Hopefully this doesn’t dissuade anyone from checking this album out, if all they’re looking for is another album completely filled with angst-ridden vocals.
Valley of Smoke still retains the deep, resonating sound that is well known with Intronaut’s other releases. Tracks like “Elegy”, “Miasma” and “Sunderance” are full of enough down-tuned riffs and aggressive vocals to satisfy any fan of theirs. But there are plenty of moments throughout the album where the mood is relaxing and hypnotic, most notably in tracks like “Above”, “Core Relations”, “Below” and “Past Tense” (especially the ending). The title track, “Valley of Smoke”, combines all the elements heard throughout the album in over 8 minutes of instrumental bliss. And I’m not the only one digging this album, here is a direct quote from my bud Alkahest:
“The title track features two drum tracks and two bass tracks, and you can hear the drums split apart at the beginning where the snare bounces between the left and right channels. It blew my mind.” – Alkahest
Intronaut have gone above and beyond with their musicianship, giving us another well-written and structured album. The production on Valley of Smoke is raw, (don’t worry, it doesn’t sound like it was recorded on a cassette tape in someone’s basement), it captures the bands actual sound rather than slabbing an over polished digital sound to it, which is what you hear on a lot of metal albums lately. It’s a breath of fresh air in my opinion. The guitars shift from calm ambiance to precise destruction flawlessly without missing a beat, and the vocal work is spot on with it’s delivery. You can actually hear the bass, which is a key factor in this album, and the drumming, fills and all, are all accounted for in clear presentation.
Valley of Smoke is a massive undertaking of musicianship and should be heard by anyone who has an appreciation for music. I would point fans of The Ocean, Baroness and Mastodon in the direction of Intronaut, if they aren’t already familiar with them, but like I said, everyone should give this album a spin. Valley of Smoke is a strong release, and one I hope doesn’t get overshadowed by many other top-notch albums that have come out, or are coming out in the remainder of the year. It’s that damn good…
Intronaut – Valley of Smoke