15 Jul 2016

Intrinsic: "Nails"

Back from the dead, American power-thrash act Intrinsic finally release their original sophomore album
Connoisseurs of all American power-thrash may recall a certain Californian outfit from back in the day known as Intrinsic. After the release of their eponymous debut in 1987, and the Distortion of Perspective EP from 1990, the group found that the industry had shifted toward a more mainstream, groove oriented sound - A sound that their sophomore album, to be called Nails, did not fit. The Nails album was shelved until 2014 when Divebomb Records agreed to finally release the forgotten gem.

The old DAT recording, however, had degraded so much in the mean time as to be rendered unusable. Luckily the original studio engineer had kept the complete reel of the performance originally recorded between '91 and '92. A three day crowdfunding campaign ensured that Intrinsic and Divebomb Records could finally release the Nails album.

"...just about halfway through the fourth track something snaps."

On their second-turned-third album, Intrinsic perform a sound that has now become synonymous with groups such as Annihilator, Heathen or Jag Panzer. In 1992, this approach could well have been seen as excessively progressive with its lengthy instrumentals and, in general, longer song arrangements. There are times where, with modern eyes, Intrinsic fails to guide the listener through their wide passages of falcetto vocals, shredding riffs and powerful rhythms, but just about halfway through the fourth track - On Gossamer Wings - something snaps. When the guitarists break out in their epic solo, you feel just what it is the Californian quintet were trying to achieve.

Something about the lacking power in the guitar tone strokes me the wrong way, but the drums and bass more than make up for it with lots of punch and power. Tracks like Pillar of Fire, Vicious Circle and Fight No More are among the highlights on an album that, if anything, feels a bit excessive in length. Clocking in at over one hour, their brand of powerful thrash metal is drawn out to a point where it gets a bit too much. The guitars rarely leave the lower registers for anything but solos, but when they do the music soars - especially in conjunction with the more than competent bass lines. The deeper chords makes for some heavy but ultimately unvaried compositions at times.

Vocalist Lee Dehmer Jr. is no doubt a competent one, combining a school of vocalists like Bruce Dickinson and Randy Rampage. The lyrics, on the other hand, grow stale rather quickly with their contemporary half-baked political opinions and social commentaries.

On an overall basis Nails has quite a few moments - Whenever Intrinsic embark on their extensive instrumental passages, and bassist Joel Stern really gets to shine through the groovy guitar segments. It is an album that, for me, took a while to get into, but when it has first lodged in your brain it will remain there for quite some time...


Released in 2015 by Divebomb Records


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