Intronaut Know Where They’re Going With The Direction of Last Things
Dynamics in metal are tricky. The fact that most metal bands forgo them entirely notwithstanding, too few acts both regularly write dynamic music and still evolve over the course of their lifespans. Sure, plenty of artists make a record with a cohesive narrative once, then repeat it once every three years for the rest of time; others experiment wildly from album to album and establish a strong but inconsistent discography. Intronaut’s… erm… direction… has proved rather divisive over the last few albums, with OG fans lamenting the way the band’s heavy affect transitioned into one more closely aligned with noodly, jammed-out prog. Now, though, The Direction of Last Things is here to clarify that the band really does have its bearings – it’s not only one of the best records of the year, but also an integral and illuminating piece of Intronaut’s history.
Things seem pretty different at first when”Fast Worms” kicks off with a juddering stop-and-start riff and a return to harsh vocals. The mellow, jazzy affect of 2013’s Habitual Levitations has now been bolstered with gritty, Void-esque low-end and ripping swaths of dissonance, calling to mind a mechanized and modernized Valley of Smoke. The Direction of Last Things is heavier, harsher, faster, and, most obviously, riffier than either of those records, but it doesn’t forgo any of the layer cake-dense vocal harmonies or expressive interludes that made those albums so enjoyable.
Per Intronaut’s custom, any two voices are rarely playing in rhythmic unison, yet the instruments never veer too far away from each other or dissolve into wankery. Even the most disparate of riffs and the most syncopated rhythms counterpoint and complement each other (“Sul Ponticello” and “Digital Gerrymandering” stand out in particular); you’ll find yourself constantly banging your head, though it’ll probably be twice as fast or twice as slow as you should be headbanging.
As with all the best artists, every member of Intronaut is a damn good player, and each musician understands his place in the band. This is something that’s only become clearer with the passage of time, especially as Danny Walker and Joe Lester have continually proven that they’re one of the absolute best rhythm sections in metal today. Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick’s guitar lines have morphed into honest-to-god riffs that are as catchy as they are technical, and the evocative power of the album is stronger than it’s ever been (with or without the aid of a certain green herb).
The album is busy, though, and that’s the main factor in explaining why The Direction of Last Things has no resting equilibrium, for better or worse. Intronaut’s post-metal leanings have slowly faded into the background, and though there’s plenty of space on these tracks, there’s little that conveys the sheer emptiness on the same scope as some of the band’s previous work. As on earlier releases, every track incorporates a number of often contrastive styles, leaving it up to listeners to guess what might come next at any given moment. Sometimes, that unpredictably and busy-ness are exactly what you’re looking for, but sometimes, they impede the album.
Regardless, The Direction of Last Things comes across as the band’s most cohesive work yet. Intronaut keeps the future in mind while paying respect to the past – this album is modern and digital but sprawling and organic, tight-knit but designed to breathe. It’s as if the band dug through their back catalog and found the very best parts to assimilate into their new direction, marrying its nuanced treatment of mood with its distinctive capacity for aggression. Importantly, this album also indicates that Intronaut aren’t done changing, but even if we can expect the next record to sound somewhat – or maybe entirely – different, it’ll still sound like Intronaut. The Direction of Last Things might not convert any of those who’ve already made their decision about the band, but for everyone else: pass this up at your own risk.