There are times when you get the idea that bands or artists are sometimes holding back; that they are, whilst not necessarily cutting corners, pulling their punches. This cannot be said in the case of the absurdly intense, quixotic and brutal madness conjured up on the debut album by chief madman in residence Eli Litwin and his Intensus project.
Litwin is something of an underground darling, thanks to his work in Knife the Glitter and Burden, and, with this Intensus project he has been able to fashion of a who’s who of the contemporary extreme music scene in support of this debut opus. Featuring amongst others Tommy Rogers (Between the Buried and Me), Jerry Jones (Trophy Scars), and Evan Moore (Gypsy Wig, Birth Screams), Intensus is a largely improvised work, deeply collaborative in its construction, unremittingly intense in its execution but, perhaps most surprisingly, an often textured and layered piece.
It is by turns, angry, frustrated, cantankerous and downright obtuse. The album skates across a wide range of extreme musical tendencies- there’s snippets of grindcore, doom metal, experimental progressive metal and, deep within its alarmingly concentrated grooves, some melody (remember that?)
Tracks such as The Intense and Colon Cleanse Your Sins are short sharp bursts of aural invective that would not be out of place on a Dilinger Escape Plan album or a new psychedelic narrative from Between the Buried and Me.
Festering meanwhile is much more a “traditional” (if that’s the right word) take on doomy, extreme metal and the intense, odd time changes of The Pit of Hands (which features another notable guest appearance: this time from Chris Alfano) are two minutes of well, extreme intensity. Elsewhere, the sheer barking craziness of Time Killer Shitter gives you an illustration of the breadth and depths of the extremes that are being explored here. No stone is left unturned, no avenue or rabbit hole missed in this experiment of emotional and musical cajoling.
There is much to admire in Intensus. Apparently, Litwin recorded all the drum parts for all the tracks in one take whilst building the guitar parts in conjunction with his collaborators over the course of a year. That being said, this is not going to be the soundtrack to my summer if I’m honest. In short sharp bursts, some of the tracks work really well but most of it leaves me ummoved. As an experiment, it’s admirable. As a coherent work of art, it’s less successful.
Don’t just take my word for it though: it’s worth checking out. If you like this sort of thing then you’re likely going to be in raptures. There is a lot to admire in Intensus- the craft, the invention, the sheer dynamism; there just isn’t enough to truly love.