01. The Challenger 02. Whittler of Fortune 03. Deep Architecture 04. Gleamer (live) 05. Fault Lines (live) 06. Rise to the Midden (live) 07. Sores Will Weep (live) 08. They (As In Them) 09. Burning These Days (remix)2007 Translation Loss Records
Calling Intronaut's brief presence in the metal scene refreshing would be a bit of an understatement. With their prior releases, Null and Void, the four-piece crafted a unique sound, blending angular metal with tasteful, jazz-tinged interludes to create flowing mini-epics. And with the release of The Challenger via Translation Loss, the group picks up right where it left off, and continues to push the limits of modern metal. Listed as an EP, The Challenger boasts three new tracks, a few live songs and a remix by the band's own Sacha Dunable. The trio of new songs, the clear focus of the release, represents some of the best tracks released in 2007. The title track opener begins with a howl of feedback before launching into a period of tight riffing not too far off from the earlier days of Coalesce. As "The Challenger" progresses, piercing guitar work and absolutely punishing drumming lead into a sparse, rhythmic midsection, eventually pushing the track to a fluid, dynamic conclusion. "Whittler of Fortune" moves from a somber intro to a mid-tempo section featuring melodic guitar lines before entering into one of Intronaut's signature bass-driven spacey interludes. Joe Lester's smooth bass work continues in "Deep Architecture," a track that draws a few comparisons to Coprofago's jazz-fusion sound. Fans of intelligent metal will have absolutely no difficulty in embracing Intronaut's latest output. These tracks are simply awesome. However, the rest of The Challenger doesn't have as great of an appeal. The four live tracks are an ample representation of the band's live sound, but previous fans of the band aren't likely to get too excited over them. The Justin Broadrick style remix of "Burning These Days" is adequate, but relatively forgettable. There's two ways of looking at the inclusion of these extras. One side says it's disappointing that only fifteen minutes of the EP presents engaging material, while the other argues that the band's doing fans a favor by tacking on some previously unreleased material to an already spectacular release. I don't consider myself to be a huge live/unreleased/remix material fan, but hey, to each his own. Bottom Line: The first three tracks of The Challenger are a sign that Intronaut is in the upper echelons of the metal community, as their brand of intelligent metal stands apart from the multitude of forgettable mediocrity that is currently saturating the heavy music world. However, the EP is heavily padded with a bunch of extras that don't come close to living up to the opening tracks. So while the replayability factor isn't that high for much of the disc, the new material still makes this more than worthy of checking out.