Intonate is a curious band within the world of technical and progressive death metal. A common point of comparison for Intonate in other places is Ulcerate, a touchpoint drawn largely from their extended formatting and sense of cadence and cascade that at times feels more in common with post-metal and post-rock than with death metal as we commonly imagine it. This comparison falls short of capturing the contours of this band, who often skew far from the more stringent elements that define Ulcerate. The drums, for instance, lack that frantic hyperactivity, often being more cogently focused on serving a supporting beat than taking a lead role. Likewise the usage of dissonances here, while still present (as they should in all death metal), are less of a focal point, feeling often quite dissimilar to the half-free jazz sensibilities of that other group.

Instead, Intonate rely more often on a compositional sense closer to the roaring cascade of tremolo picked guitars seen in contemporary black metal, especially the more cinematic variety. This is married against a very death metal approach to melodic riff construction, dealing with all the great and meaty chromaticisms and dissonances that have come to define death metal as an ongoing practice. These sections are left deliberately segmented, bringing to mind the more rigidly separated psychedelic and cavemen portions of last year's Bedsore release. The separation of elements here serves the same purpose; the segments of these lengthy songs often feel distinct and full, keeping the attention of tracks up where perhaps a more congealed compositional approach might have been aurally fatiguing after long spans. Listen to a pre-release stream of the entire album below.

...

...

There are a number of colors present on Intonate's upcoming album Severed Within, the band often peeling through a seeming rolodex of death metal microgenres, all while avoiding the typical cliches of technical death metal. There is nary a clean sweep-picked arpeggio to be found here and achingly little in the way of melodic death metal influence save the passing harmonized guitar passage. These songs stay one foot in the gutter and the other slipping through the side-door of reality, reaching one arm into the psychedelic wastes where other bands have gotten lost. It is admittedly hard at times not to feel a bit frustrated that the band doesn't go further out with some of these ideas, especially with the ground gained by acclaimed records in the past number of years vetting that kind of deeply disjointed, disquieting, and avant-garde approach. But this kind of frustration can ultimately be a good thing: it means the band has more to say and more ground to explore in this terrain, leaving us hungrier for deeper explorations rather than a departure. And if anything, the band's ability to make its ideas, ones often still marked by that deep strangeness that makes death metal like this so intoxicating, feel approachable is a testament to compositional acumen rather than a detractor. The intent of Intonate is clearly not to be the wanderers in the wastelands, sojourning out beyond the limitless horizon of avant-gardeism within extreme metal; their role instead is to craft compelling works with those pieces found, making legible what otherwise might have been bizarre.

What does remain of that earlier Ulcerate comparison I initially waved off is, thankfully, the most important aspect both of Ulcerate and Intonate: their emotionalist core. This is not death metal meant to be soaked in gore, nor is it the surrealist hellscape of other more intensely cerebral bands. Intonate aim for the heart, be it with their aching chord progressions, melodies laced with longing, or vocals which feel as much like a cry as a roar. This is the school of death metal Opeth opened up, death metal that is as nasty and gruesome as any around but is focused aesthetically more on the emotional spaces of doom metal or the like, without becoming death doom itself. The cerebralism they pluck from is recontextualized here on Severed Within to be music of the heart, transforming the skeletonized hallways of cybernetics and stretched deformed flesh of the surrealist mindscapes of death metal's fringes into an existentialist exploration. It's hard to imagine any serious fan of death metal turning their nose up at this. Ough.

...

Severed Within releases on April 16th via Willowtip Records.