It’s interesting to watch something grow. I have a window box of Morning Glories outside my living room. They started out as tiny little seeds and then became an unruly mass of green vines and bright purple flowers. Nice. Fascinating. Chaotic. I’m glad I planted Morning Glories, but you know, they’re awfully similar to Sweet Pea.
Intronaut is a progressive metal quartet from Los Angeles, and Fluid Existential Inversions is their sixth full-length album, and like my window box of flowers, their growth has been both fascinating and chaotic. It’s been five years since The Direction of Last Things, and in the interim the band parted with founding drummer Danny Walker. Instead taking up the sticks is Alex Rüdinger, who played live with Whitechapel, The Faceless, and Revocation. The choice seems to have been a good one, as Fluid Existential Inversions is chock full of delicious drum grooves and cymbal work, from opening hallucinogen influenced “Cubensis” through seven minute, thirty-three second closer “Sour Everythings.” If you have a taste for jazzy polyrhythms with intermittent doses of death metal energy, you need to listen to the drumming on Fluid Existential Inversions.
If you’ve followed the band’s past work, Fluid Existential Inversions is a direct follow on from The Direction of Last Things. The Meshuggah-inspired heavy chunking chords; the sudden meter shifts; the fat as hell bass tone; the confusing song titles that may or may not be the result of copious ingestion of hallucinogens. I’m happy to report that the more boring post-rock experiments of Habitual Levitations seem to be left in the past, but if you were hoping for more of the organic, stoner doom vibes of Valley of Smoke, you’ll likely be disappointed.
Guitarist pair Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick still have a fondness for big distorted diminished chords, as “The Cull” quickly demonstrates. Joe Lester’s bass alternately growls and sings, making excellent use of the wah pedal without attempting to get funky. “Speaking of Orbs” introduces synth pedals into the mix, flowing seamlessly into palm-muted guitar power chords. The sheer amount of sounds that Intronaut manages to flow through in the space of a single song is overwhelming, and although it’s impressive, can hurt the flow or make the album harder to remember after it’s over.
And that’s the only real problem that I have with Fluid Existential Inversions. Half the time when I spin it, I get lost in the grooves and the shimmering guitars and the rumbling bass. The other half of the time, though? I think of the other bands that do similar things, but more memorably. The Ocean’s Pelagial was a prog metal masterpiece and sometimes Inversions feels like a snapshot of that deeper piece with an Instagram filter over top. Leprous and Katatonia do clean singing with polyrhythmic grooves, too, and they’re responsible for some of the most memorable songs I’ve ever heard. Hell, I’m even reminded of previous Intronaut albums some times, and am tempted to spin the slightly shorter Direction of Last Things instead.
That said, all good progressive music has the ability to grow with repeated listens. I do highly recommend giving Fluid Existential Inversions a spin or three, if for the drumming alone. Perhaps even put some research into what kind of drugs the band is singing about, and see if that unlocks the hidden mystery.