Intrinsic – Nails
Release Date: October 16, 2015
Intrinsic hails from the Central California coastline in a small town called Morro Bay near San Luis Obispo. The quintet, was founded in 1984 by guitarist Mike Mellinger, along with drummer Christopher Binns and bassist Joel Stern. The first iteration of Intrinsic unleashed its self-titled debut in 1987 followed by the EP Distortions of Perspective in 1990. By the time the latter was recorded, Lee Dehmer, Jr. and Garrett Craddock had joined the band on vocals and guitar, respectively. The band’s sound fused elements of thrash, power and speed metal into an intriguing blend of high energy, neck-snapping mayhem.
The band’s third studio album, Nails, is technically its second. The record was recorded 25 years ago then tossed on a shelve to collect dust, allow the DAT recording to deteriorate. The band created Nails around 1991-92, but with grunge taking over the heavy rock music scene, the band’s label would not release the album. Fast forward a quarter century and the band contacted the original engineer for the session tapes (fortuitous he still had them) and the album was newly mastered.
Anyone who comes into Nails with preconceived notions about what the record will or should sound like will likely be disappointed. Intrinsic do/did not confine themselves to any metal sub-genre here: Thrash, speed, power, progressive, and nu-metal are all in the mix (sometimes in the same song).
The album jumps off with “State of the Union”, and what, at the time, was a textbook, mid-tempo thrash ensemblage of crunchy riffs and deft drum work. This quickly segues into a driving juggernaut of controlled chaos. Dehmer’s vocals land somewhere between Bruce Dickinson and Warrel Dane, and the song’s progressions and tempo shifts add depth to the track.
Intrinsic changes gears on “Fight No More”, a song that hits like the bastard hooligan of Queensryche and Iron Maiden. This track is a progressive onslaught with all members getting a chance to shine; although the bass feels a bit buried. On “Die Trying”, the band moves back and forth between a buzzsaw power metal attack on the verses and a galloping thrash assault on the chorus. I’m reminded a bit of classic Vicious Rumors on this track.
“On Gossamer Wings” glides in with a bucolic intro followed by a wall of muscular riffing and relentless drum work. It marks one of Dehmer’s better vocal performances. The track checks in at almost 8 minutes, and the moody, atmospheric breakdown-which starts at the 4-minute mark–moves the song from a raucous headbanger into a progressive bluesy journey that recalls shades of early Judas Priest. The track charges out on a galloping high.
“Pillar of Fire” has something of an Egyptian tint to the melody, while “Mourn for Her” is almost a floaty ballad with some jazzy moments. The song serves as a nice cleansing segue to the album’s more diverse second half.
“Vicious Cycle” addresses the war on drugs, which a quarter century later has proven to be an epic failure. The song succeeds, however, with its urban, somewhat nu-metal flavor. “Denial” has an airy 70’s quality with soaring harmonies that drift into a classic metal riff, but this transitions into something more akin to groove metal on the verses; with heavy, crunchy guitars, and a chugging rhythm.
The guys deliver a nice proggy, instrumental interlude with “Yikes” which opens the door to a head trip through the 70s, Moody Blues-meets-Led Zeppelin lovechild, “Inner Sanctum”. The violin adds a poignant touch, and the song becomes a surprise standout on a record that one presumed would be an all out thrashfest. Fantastic vocal harmonies. This track makes the band’s cover of Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” seem like a natural progression.
The album’s original closer takes the band back to its thrash roots, for the Bay Area aesthetic of “Too Late But Not Forgotten”–which turns out to be a poetic missive on the album’s long overdue release.
The band financed the remastering process of Nails through a fan-supported crowd-funding campaign, and as a bonus the guys added the extra track, “Cannabis Sativa”. Think Mr. Bungle meets Ugly Kid Joe: A hilarious and addictive nod to the 420 faithful that one might call bong-rock.
The best part of Intrinsic‘s Nails is how diverse it is, but it is that same diversity which keeps it from having the continuity one expects from a full-length record. The flow is a bit stilted. However, in this day and age of digital downloads, that hardly matters. Overall, the music on Nails ranges from sweaty moshpit revelry to baked and bluesy nirvana. There’s a little something here for fans of rock and metal. Call it a mish-mosh pit, if you will, but its all good.