“THE CHALLENGER EP” A (MOSTLY) SOLID STEP FOR INTRONAUT
I’ve been waiting for this fucker for some time now. And don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely satiated by the fruits currently offered from this unbelievable band – but I guess what I’ve actually been waiting for this whole time is a new full-length album from Intronaut. And I’m still waiting.
Believe me, that’s not to say that this EP ain’t worth it — yes, a few of the recent live recordings presented on this disc are hardly of top-notch quality (with regards to both sound quality and playing), but rest assured, two older, Null-era (late 2005) live cuts sound much, much better — overflowing with deep focus and furious energy.
And of course the biggest reason to be excited about this release is that there are three brand-new studio tracks, and the first one alone is pretty much worth the price of admission. “The Challenger” (the album-opening song, listenable on Intronaut’s MySpace page) is really amazing — one of the band’s most powerful yet — full of divergent moods and thunderous breaks; this is actually what you’re here for the most.
This first tune is masterful from start to finish, from its thick volcanic opening to shrill wailing verse to fiery dissonant break and so on and so forth…you almost can’t really catch your fucking breath until the stacatto chugga chugg section sets in and you try to make sense of the rhythm…and then you’re basically in the home stretch anyway. But the finale refuses to let go until the last moment — the whole way through, this track is super-strong.
“Whittler of Fortune”, the next all-new track, is slightly mindfuckish from the very start, a guitar/hi-hat overlapping rhythms intro that leads into an alternating-bars-of-five-and-six groove section which…is…really in…eleven? Huh? Then it’s on to the washy verse and the drum shredding rockout which fucking rips.
By the time the boozy, slinking mire-y start of “Deep Architecture” (the last of the new ones) unfolds, you can’t help falling into the thick swampy chord progression that perfectly flows into the anthemic parts which feature the talents of gifted bass player Joe Lester in a sizeable way.
The three live recordings from earlier this year (February ’07 in Tempe, AZ), all songs from the band’s previous full-length Void (2006), unfortunately sound a bit uneven, alternating moments of sheer inspiration with those of monotone, less-than-stellar playing, giving the overall impression of a group sick of rocking the same intricate songs over and over again. Or perhaps there was tension in the band at the time that contributed to the drony, unenthused vibe of that particular show? Guitarist/vocalist Leon del Muerte did part ways with the band a short four or five months later. Which is a little odd, because the studio recordings on “The Challenger” are apparantly from this Summer, right before del Muerte left the band, and they have a hell of a lot of life to them.
The record’s saving grace (as this could have easily been a three to five song EP instead of nine track “album”, ten if you count the wank-off hidden track sound check entitled “Sound Check”, go figure) is a pair of older recordings from October ’05, performed in Los Angeles, which thankfully give the exact opposite feeling from the recent counterparts — these must have been recorded right around the time the tunes that would appear on Null were completed, and the band’s excitement of playing them live clearly comes across here.
Rounding off the eclectic melange of tracks is an out-of-place electronica remix of “Burning These Days”, from Null (done by “front” man Sacha Dunable), which has a few really well-syncopated moments that almost make it worth it (a nice experiment), but for the most part, the track feels unnecessary.
On the whole, “The Challenger EP” is definitely worth your time, but if you are new to the wonderful world of Intronaut, perhaps you are better off starting with the previous studio recordings, Null (EP) and Void. On those records, every single track — not just half of them — are essential.
(three and a half out of five horns)
Visit Intronaut on MySpace – November European tour (w/The Ocean) dates and February ’08 tour (w/High on Fire, A Life Once Lost, and Saviours) dates up
The original members of Intronaut — one-quarter null and void