I appreciated the imaginative patterns of Intronaut’s “Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words with Tones)” (2013) if not the vocals. Since then they released a further album “Direction of All Things”, and now this, their sixth album release. I did actually see Intronaut live in 2016 but whilst they captured the essence of technical prog heaviness, it was a tired performance. I understand they have regrouped since then. This clearly is a band with ideas and talent. It’s the communication of the ideas that may drive the wedge.
Off beat is my first impression. Technical patterns, echoing djent and a vaguely Opeth riff all contribute to the deliberate mish mash of “Cubensis”. There’s a soft and lush refrain, followed by a decidedly prog instrumental passage. I remember previously having issues with the vocalist, who frankly is superfluous with all this instrumental finery going on. In clean mode he’s fine and indeed very expressive but his rough voice is, well, rough. Instrumentally “Cubensis” is interesting and has sublime moments. “The Cull”, which follows, has a similar pattern. It’s heavy, the vocals are ghastly – a little like Darkane on a bad day, I’d say – but as the track settles in to its multitude of directions, the instrumentals become more prog and utterly mesmerising. I liked that the fact Intronaut resist the systematic temptation to dart about, which clearly is in their repertoire, and accordingly build up the electricity that’s in the air. The last section ranks alongside Kingcrow for emotional intensity. Where “The Cull” was clear, “Contrapasso” is baffling. That does not mean it’s bad. In fact leaving out the flat vocals, this is an exotic blend of heavy and dreamy melodies. It’s not simple, but it’s deliberate and adventurous. I like it. There’s more than an element of Pink Floyd in the dreamy vocals, and as if by statute, of Dream Theater. The instrumentals are generally heavier and certainly more ambitious.
“Speaking of Orbs” borders on death metal for brief moments when it’s not being hard rock or experimental. It’s certainly got a groove, that is when it’s not changing direction or style. At least the direction changes are well managed, and it’s always interesting, even if it’s not clear where it’s all going. “Tripolar” is the epitome of this. After a fairly awful start, the drums mesmerise us before a dreamy, jazzy passage moves in and progress the hypnosis. It is impossible to say how this should work back to heavy progressive bordering on death metal, other than the fact that it started like this. Best not to ask questions, I guess. Death growls mix in with the experimental progressive patterns of “Check Your Misfortune”. As has happened before, the song comes into its own as it develops its way through ever more lush territory, aided by the haunting notes of the keyboard. I found myself tolerating the heavier sections, not that they’re badly played, in the hope I would be rewarded by expansive prog passages. “Pangloss” starts with heavy fuzz, and progresses nicely through more deep heaviness into the floaty technicolour world that I’d rather hoped for. Here’s proof that good things come to those who wait. “Sour Everythings” ends the album with a masterclass in instrumental finery and progression, and less convincing vocals, but as many of the songs here, it has delightful freedom and took me to higher places.
This isn’t the easiest of albums to absorb. To start I just hung on, but it was well worth it. The more I listen, the better it gets. The fact that it is unusual is a good quality, made better by the fact that the instrumental sound quality is of an excellent standard, and the band are clearly highly talented musicians. There is a Dr Jekyll / Mr Hyde element to this album. When it’s good, it’s outstandingly good. On the other hand I’m less keen on some of the vocals. I’m ok with the mix of styles, as Intronaut somehow manage to keep the songs fluid. Instrumentally this is a very clever if complex album. It is prog at the end of the day. But it’s good, adventurous, well-played prog. “Fluid Existential Inversions” is a very interesting and captivating album and goes way beyond being an exercise in experimental patterns and technical skills. It’s also an invigorating listen.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)