From the rather clever play on words of their name, through to the arty if thoroughly disgusting cover, there is something overtly cerebral about Cardiff technicians Intensive Square. There’s a claustrophobic intensity from the outset of debut album Anything That Moves (Black Bow); complex drum patterns leading the way for some crunching, chaotic riffs and Chris Haughey’s dry scour. A febrile sound initially in keeping with the intelligent violence of Dillinger Escape Plan or Pyrrhon, twisting rhythms create grooves and craters as deep as the earth’s core whilst syncopated flickers leave your body convulsing with an involuntary joy.
The howling leads of opener ‘The Long Man’ are accompanied in the atonal melody stakes by the enigmatically-named Barnes’ wailing sax which, far from having you running for the hills, actually augments the power and further peaks the curiosity. The Cancer Bats-meets-Jazz of the ensuing ‘Ends’ possesses a brooding, building coda which heightens the tension; whilst the viciously switching, jerking grooves of ‘Me Vs the Cables’ and ‘Rhino Fight’ will leave those of us with knee problems in utter agony. The perfect timing of the band’s time switches and staccato rhythms enhance rather than frustrate: ‘…Fight’ slowing then quickening on a sixpence, the ferocious battery and squealing sax fully invoking the fear and drama of the titanic struggle the title suggests.
The blend of hostility and progressive sensibilities brings djent kings Meshuggah to mind but there’s a more organic quality here, a natural flow which harnesses that pulsating power, letting the invention run on an extending leash rather than wholly unfettered. The strange lead patterns in the stuttering savagery of ‘Gastric Emptying’ seem completely apt. The Death/Sludge template of ‘Vegetarians’, meanwhile, its ingredients warping and morphing in attempts to break free, still snaps back to the controlling structure; Haughey’s bellow letting blood over the exhausted body of the track.
The swerving riffs of the crushing, pummelling closer ‘King’, like Grind slowed to a virtual standstill, is as nerve-wrecking as anything I’ve heard this year. Indeed, the only thing that’s utterly untethered here is the rampant verve, the vivacity coursing through this bruising, intricate set.
Quite simply this is a huge shot in the arm for progressive, extreme metal and one of the most vital releases of recent years.