The follow-up to Intronaut’s magnum progressive sludge metal opus, 2010’s Valley Of Smoke, is another hour-long testimony to the SoCal quartet’s unabashed originality and extraordinary command over rhythm and vibe.
Habitual Levitations is greyer in feel and in outlook than the multihued Valley Of Smoke, but the pictures Intronaut paints are no less elaborate. This new effort has everything fans love about the band, great riffs, odd time signatures and fretless bass, but with a distinctly more doleful mood that sets the album apart from previous efforts.
The first track, “Killing Birds With Stones,” fades into being with a dreary riff that opens up into a lumbering B section over which guitars provide atmosphere as bass and drums dig into the sludge-paced groove. Over eight minutes, Intronaut explores different sonic landscapes, layering unison clean and gritty vocals but never straying far from the song’s motif.
“The Welding,” is a teetering, syncopated progressive thumper, while “Steps” incorporates more ironbound riffing and shimmery arpeggiated chords with eerie, at points dissonant, vocal harmonies. The intro riff of track five, “Milk Leg,” snarls and gnashes its teeth before the band kicks it into a choppy verse, the bottom of which falls out into the satisfying, elastic chorus. The guitars clean up in the brief D section, though the overall heaviness remains as the bass and drums keep hitting hard.
Besides having an exceedingly clever title, “Harmonomicon” gradually unravels into another heavy tune before it takes an ambient turn. The bass takes more and more liberties as the song goes on, building into an all-out solo by the end. (This is the only proper solo on the album. Intronaut keep the noodling to a minimum.) “Blood From Stone” provides a nice, mellow transition between “Eventual” and “The Way Down,” a climactic, upbeat and riff-oriented closer.
Habitual Levitations will disappoint no one, featuring some of the most seamless songwriting in the band’s career. This well-thought-out record elaborates upon Valley Of Smoke in the best way possible and will find its place in the hearts of prog fans of all stylistic persuasions.
In A Word: Cohesive