It’s the unusually early time of 8:30 a.m. when Intronaut guitarist and vocalist Sasha Dunable and I connect. Eager to get a start on the day, the musician has requested this start time. After all, he needs to stay on top of his busy schedule: a job at a guitar centre, the upcoming release of his band’s fourth full-length and a tour with Swedish extreme metal legends Meshuggah awaits.
“It’s still very cool to get tours like this. It’s kind of like the rush we are chasing,” he begins. Intronaut hasn’t played many shows since March of 2012. Instead, they’ve been working to finish Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones). “I think this is the longest we’ve gone without playing a show, ever.”
During the break from live performances, the quartet – including bassist Joe Lester, multi-instrumentalist Dave Timnick, and drummer extraordinaire Danny Walker (currently or formerly of Phobia, Exhumed, Jesu, Bad Acid Trip, Bastard Noise, and Murder Construct) – hunkered down to capture their second last record for Century Media. Known for obvious progressions in their discography, Intronaut has morphed from the schizophrenic, howling, post-metal sound featured on their full-length debut, Void (2006), to a progressive juggernaut with Middle Eastern, African and Indian integrations alongside smooth polyrhythmic jazz percussion. They are now without metal’s tradition calling cards: screaming, howling, or guttural vocals have disappeared from their repertoire.
“I don’t think there is any screaming on this record at all – actually, I know that there isn’t. It’s definitely the next step in progression I think, in the direction we were headed,” reflects Dunable. While their debut and follow-up, Prehistoricisms (2008), both heavily feature vocals reminiscent of ISIS – as in, a scratchy howl – their 2010 effort, Valley of Smoke, marked the beginning of the end and instead focused on juxtaposing choral vocal segments with hugely complex juddering riffs and groovy percussive ghost-notes.
“Screaming doesn’t feel like the best way to get your point across anymore,” he offers. We note that this phenomenon also beset Cynic, Opeth, and Devin Townsend to mixed results.
“Exactly, yeah, and tons of other bands that we’ve yet to think of at the moment,” he agrees. “I still like all the stuff that we did where you’re barfing your guts out into the microphone, but just doing that nowadays doesn’t exactly feel like what I should be doing…. I think it was just part of the aesthetic of the music and then as the band got more comfortable with ourselves and each other and playing music… I mean, our influences have always been old ‘70s prog stuff, along with the more brutal metal. But, as the band progresses and all that, you know, you just want to try new things.”
It was equally beneficial because the human voice is, like the guitar, an instrument that can convey incredible complexity and range.
“With this band, it’s really about the music. The lyrics and stuff, the singing, it’s just another instrument. So, I feel like, personally, I didn’t even write many of these lyrics and I feel like the band almost says more with the actual music.”
With this focus in mind, it’s unsurprising the band returned to the experts to capture the record. With drums recorded by John Haddad – who worked on the band’s Null EP and first two full-lengths – and everything else recorded by Derek Donley (of Dunable’s side-project doom quartet Bereft), it was a family affair.
“John gets this super crisp, palatable drum sound, and Derek knows how to get a really dirty, heavy sound for guitars,” enthuses Dunable. The result is an album that will surprise newcomers to the band, yet thrill converts for its consolidation of the many disparate elements Intronaut utilizes. Sure, it’s ball-crushing at times, but it also skillfully demonstrates that metal is capable of being relaxing.
Dunable sums it up best by suggesting the process – just like metal to the uninitiated – can seem like “a total headache,” but in actuality, it is “totally mellow.”
See Intronaut open for Meshuggah on February 27, 2013 at the MacEwan Hall Ballroom. Animals as Leaders will also perform.
By Sarah KitteringhamAB, Alberta