14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 19 October 2005
Firstly you must be aware that isis are not your average band, they dont sound like todays metal scene which has quite franically gone stale. Its also difficult to place an exact genre on the band as well, many call this genre of music noisecore or progressive metal. Either way if you can open upto this type of music it will throughly reward you with thick textures and grinding atmospheres.
Celestial the second lp and fourth release by isis is utterly hypnotic in its heavyness, the first track celstial is just a starting point that the rest of the album follows, thats not to say that the album lacks variation every song is different, creating new images and provoking thoughts.This is not a recor that relies heavily on lyrics , but more the overall sound of the album.Tracks like deconstructing towers and swarm are based on heavy repitition and huge riffs played continually which only creates a rich atmosphere and polluting piece of music.
It differs from later releases Panoptican and Oceanic in that it seems more simplistic and all together a lot heavier especially in comparison to oceanic but this only seems to add to the overall sound of the album.
Isis are a band that seem capable of almost reinventing their sound with every release but still delivering terrifyingly good results, this is a record to be heard and enjoyed.
Warning this album will take a while to fully blossom but patience will be richly rewarded.....
I recommend this album to fans of neurosis, cult of luna, pelican and maybe fans of more mainstream metal because this is not to be missed.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 22 April 2009
This Isis style is almost entirely removed from the modern day band. The additional notes even claim the same; "In their early days, Isis were a sludge/post-hardcore band. They later moved on to a more-Neurosis influenced sound and most recently, post rock." Whilst the band has moved on to new pastures, the old stomping ground has still got a lot to offer any newcomer, or existing fan of the band. 2000 was an important year. The millennium bug was meant to strike to devastating affect, but didn't. The world was caught in hysteria over the dawning of a new millennium, but was quickly washed down on New Years Eve by several inebriating spirits and finally, Isis appeared on the sludge scene with their debut `Celestial', ready and waiting to dominate a genre that was only beginning to establish its feet within the metal genre, as a whole, despite being formed many years previous. On first listen, `Celestial' is difficult to digest. The production was the first thing I noticed and I wasn't too keen on it to begin with. As time has gone by, the production has actually become imperative to the overall sound. I've relinquished my short standing morals on production and learned to appreciate its unique input.
If you're entering into this record expecting something similar to the modern day era of the band, you'll probably be disappointed because it does contain a different sound which contrasts drastically to the works of `Panopticon' and `In The Absence Of Truth'. If you're looking for comparisons, I suppose `Oceanic' would factor into the equation. This record and `Oceanic' weren't released too far apart, so its expected that the band would maintain some of the same traits that saw them through the first hurdle of their career. However, there are noticeable differences between the two, such as; the differences in metaphorical exploration, a very important aspect of the experience in listening to Isis. Like Caspian, I initially didn't enjoy this record. Its edge and unfathomable production were curious, if any. Though the record intrigued me, it didn't spark a great deal of energy in me. However, after several years and repeated listens, there is an underlying energetic feel to the Isis style that makes me a believer. Oh, Lord! I am a believer!
Whilst `Oceanic' delves deep into aquatic themes, focusing mainly on atmosphere generated by the production, drowning us with heaps of layered distortion and determined vocals that act like huge waves upon waves of forceful ocean water, dragging us deep beneath the mire, `Celestial' takes us on an astral plain, flying towards the previously unreachable skies and beyond that, to the opening gates of heaven which are welcoming us with out stretched arms and a guitar in one hand, a pick in the other. The description of the modern day Isis needs to be neglected at this early stage. The so-called post rock influences don't exist at this stage. Instead, to fill the void that one might thinks exists (but actually doesn't), soundscapes of Biblical proportions are sublimely spliced throughout the record giving an other worldly feel to the textures of the diverse soundscapes which drift in and out of consciousness, allowing us to see beyond what is actually on the record and connect with our spiritual personalities that exists beneath the surface of our weary souls. By that, I mean that Isis have created a record that is visionary in two different senses of the word.
First, `Celestial', which is defined as "pertaining to the spiritual, or invisible heaven" is metaphorically created in order to give the listener an almost religious experience. Taking us away from the daily grind of life and placing us in a spiritual vacuum, swirling us around the painful expressionist soundscapes that pummel us continually in the face with hardened and heavy guitars and maximised distortion. The major downside for me was always the amount of `filler tracks', or pointless instrumental, or programmed pieces that `Celestial' has. They don't seem to serve a distinctive purpose. When I look at the record from the outside, I see a collaboration of ground breaking songs, mixed in with troublesome fillers. If this were the playgrounds, and the lengthier songs were the wimp, the fillers would be the almost overpowering bully. I just wish someone, anyone, would come along and exclude them altogether. Be done with it and take them away from my life. They damage my opinion, they damage my motivation. On the surface of things, Isis have the attributes to make them sound like a typical sludge act. However, there are certain things which all sludge bands do, that Isis simply do better.
A) Generating a passable atmosphere - Take songs like `Collapse And Crush' for example. Its metaphorical and metaphysical nature is to collapse upon the listener with consumptive guitars, destructive distortion and crush the listener with idealist vocals. Aaron Turner's performance is pivotal to the atmosphere that Isis create. Though sludge based vocals aren't typically the best thing known to man, as long as you have a vocalist who has the ability to produce an emotive display through his voice, in a sparse way, and as long as it doesn't become overbearing and reflect negatively against the instrumentation, then it works well. Turner's abilities on the microphone have increased tenfold since this record, but they're still pressing, constructive and harshly melodic in a surreal fashion. His performance, vocally, is consistent and warrants credit since, unlike many sludge vocalists, he doesn't detach himself from the atmosphere of the music. He enhances it with his almighty vocals that depict anger, loathing and loss. The emotive nature of Isis was always bound to be apparent in their music given the lyrical themes, but the instrumentation does an apt job, no wait, a brilliant job at fusing the two together. Vocals and instruments work like cogs in an intricate machine, turning simultaneously and making impressionable strides towards a perfect sound. Even the bass is largely audible, which was pleasing. The double bass doesn't hamper it, nor do the vocals when they're present.
B) Creativity, desire and dynamism - All three are keywords when it comes to any form of music and the majority of fans. In order to surpass your peers, you must be creative, desireable in the eyes of the public and dynamic. Of course, there are a few genres that decline this idea (DSBM and funeral doom, to name but a few), but slowly and ultimately surely, `cloning' will be phased out by the better bands. Since Isis' arrival, many bands have attempted to re-create their style but only once have I really come across a band who managed to learn from the Isis style, and improve upon it in their own unique way, and that band was Bossk, who have unfortunately split-up. I suppose, though I hate to admit it, the creativity of this record lies in the contrast of song - filler - song format. Though it isn't necessarily ground breaking, its different and against the normality. The desires within the fan, of which I consider myself one of, comes in the form of simply wanting more. The irresistibly intoxicating feel of those heavy riffs, intricately mixed with the resonating bass that lies hidden beneath the clouds of the hazy production, reminds me of the smell of freshly cut grass. Its appealing and although you do forget what it smelt like at the time, you remember how it made you feel. `Celestial' is oddly euphoric and occasionally feels like its bringing me to the brink of death and back, especially in songs like `Gentle Time', which is anything but gentle. Together, creativity and consuming desire makes Isis dynamic. Highlights; `Glisten', `Swarm Reigns (Down)', and `Collapse And Crush'.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 24 October 2008
The style of Celestial has been much talked, much argued.
It has a straight forward formula and on paper it should typically be Post-Hardcore Punk. After all, it's 2 guitars, bass and drums... with keyboard. It has all the hallmarks of a rock format, but yet it transcends all the labels into something that deeply resonates with power, strength and all-out force but is simulteneously rooted in repetition and drone.
Some say that Black Speed Metal can be considered a drone, and ambient noise. Well this has the same effect, you can feel a part of it and immerse yourself within the waves of noise and feel the palpable power: or you can let it wash over and past.
I listen, I can see the band, hear the chugging monolithic riffs and see Aaron roaring into the microphone. There's no pretence, no drama and no costumes - it's affinity with Hardcore and Punk lies in it's basic set up. Yet, the lyrics, the song titles and the over-all feel all point to something, as the album title dictates, Celestial: out of this earthly realm and into the fantastic heavens.
Within Turners label and on Steve O'Malley's Southern Lord label (and, indeed, within Sunn 0))) ) there are many bands embracing the archaic mysticism, myths and rituals of old civilisations passed. This is all too likely because the drone, the giant resounding drums and crippling riffs all recall a feeling of something bigger than us, something that has only ever been described in folk-tales, eminent myths and archetypal legends.
Sounds pretentious, maybe, but this album is an underground classic
It's called Celestial for a reason. Isis could never reproduce this, but never wanted to. Buy it and then think of civilisation crashing down to it's knees...
Invest in Pelican - Australasia, then go watch the crashing waves.