on 5 June 2009
Isis return with a fine record. After "In The Absence Of Truth", which I found slightly patchy (and wasn't overly fond of the drum sound), they have changed their approach to recording by actually all being present and correct in the studio for long periods. This has paid off, with a very cohesive recording. It really works as an album, I find that if I put it on that I have to listen to the full record in its entirety.
Standouts for me are the bookends, "Hall Of The Dead" and "Threshold Of Transformation", whilst "Ghost Key" incorporates more of Cliff Meyer's keyboard stylings than we've heard in the past. The title track neatly splits the album into two halves, and provides some nice respite amidst the generally heavy music. Turner still bellows and screams, which for me is the only downside to Isis, as I prefer clean vocals and can only really accept that people go for guttural shouts because they can't really sing. But vocals aren't really the point of Isis - the music is the reason that you're here in the first place. Harris' drumming is excellent throughout, improving on what I felt became too repetitive on ITAOT. Interestingly enough I think the standout players on this album are the bassist Jeff Caxide, who has a very nice tone throughout (listen to "Ghost Key", I always find that type of tone sounds "watery" or "aquatic" for lack of better words); and Cliff Meyer coming to the fore with some nice turns on the keyboard.
Overall, Isis didn't really need to do too much to improve on previous efforts, but what they have achieved on "Wavering Radiant" is a qualitative improvement in style. It incorporates all of their best elements and brings them together to make a most engaging metal record. If you like your metal with intelligence and imagination, then you will find this one of the best albums of 2009.
on 18 May 2009
Isis are one of those bands that create debate.
Amongst the metal crowd they can be critized for being too dull, a bit samey or simply not heavy enough.
I guess this all depends where you are coming from as a listener.
I am a huge fan of extreme metal for example, but have a passion for what is termed "post-rock", so coming across bands that lean this way always excites me.
When i first got switched on to Isis (a friend forced me to borrow Oceanic) they were highly criticized by another friend for being a simple Neurosis rip off. But then i did argue, if your going to rip off anyone, Neurosis is a pretty good place to start.
Isis seem to blend chunky heavy riffs with a mezmerizing beauty, which is why i believe they are so special.
They are one of a few bands (Neurosis included) that, no matter what mood you are in, you can put on one of their albums and be instantly satisfied.
This is a rare thing and i guess very subjective, but i think Isis hit the nail on the head. The swirling high pitched sustained lead guitar cuts through the thudding chunky riffs and elavates the music into something euphoric.
A fine example is the albums closing track "Threshold of Transformation" which thuds along kicking and screaming for just over 5minutes before suddenly slowing the pace right down and creating something of sheer beauty akin to Mono or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, which demands to be put on repeat the moment it fades out.
So in essence, Isis are a spendid band who create some awesome music.
on 22 May 2009
Please, please, please, listen to this with an open mind. This is easily their best album. It includes lots of organ work, some great inventive guitar and bass and the drum work is amazing. IT IS NOT HEAVY METAL (1 star crazy, pete), IT IS POST ROCK, at its best. Touches of Pink Floyd in places but not the nicey nicey Floyd, the sound is very much Meddle, rough sounding as well as beautiful. All the album should be listened to as one like all great albums but the last two tracks are really something else. Don't expect Metal Music, ISIS HAVE NEVER BEEN METAL, you will be dissappointed and so you should be, open your mind and let ISIS in.
on 9 May 2009
Progression doesn't have to be extravagant, oh no. Isis have progressed over the years, whilst maintaining the consistency that has seen them rise to prominence. Its difficult to believe that this is Isis' fifth full-length and that they've been around for longer than a decade because they still play with the same enthusiasm that took their sound to new heights back in the early days, at the turn of the century. Alongside the consistency, Isis have always managed to maintain there delightful sludge roots and hardcore background, shown most fittingly in the . Though the sound has evolved along the same lines as many other bands - towards sounding like Neurosis - Isis have managed to do what countless other bands have failed disastrously at - keeping their identity intact whilst still being able to induce similar feelings that bands like Neurosis have classically provided for many years now. Aside from the obvious influence, I cannot help but relate some of the material back to bands like Tool, who're subjected to a lot of criticism from die-hard metal fans though, of course, there is a section that is in love with them. Isis, like Tool, construct unfamiliar and almost tribal sounding songs (which comes across in the subtleties of the record, not the most impacting elements) that disparage the normality of the scene, whilst welcoming experimentation with a passionate embrace. Although Tool have received a lot of criticism from sections of the metal public for being overly pretentious and downright dull, Isis have never adhered to these criticisms. From the early days of `Celestial', Isis have always made it publicly known who their influences are, but they have also managed to set aside those issues and concentrate fully on developing their own sound, which has grown stronger and stronger as they've progressed through the records.
In fact, `In the Absence of Truth' was my definitive favourite after its release and up until now because, and this may be bold considering their illustrious history, `Wavering Radiant' has surpassed all previous efforts in its successful bid to steal the crown of glory away from the hands of iconic records like the mammoth `Oceanic', with its deeply affecting aquatic appearance, using a style of production that was as deep as the ocean and an approach on vocals that was as vicious as some of the life that lives within the mysterious depths of the dangerous sea. The fascination behind bands like Isis is never likely to die down and for me, long may it continue. `Wavering Radiant' is a fine example of what goes in to making a fine sludge record, one that can maintain its roots, but also allow more adventurous elements prosper; such as the supposed post-rock influences (something that many bands seem to be taking on these days). Although many people do argue that Isis have adopted new themes into their existing sound, the band haven't altered too much since `Panopticon', which is the headquarters for the movement towards a new style. Elements of `Celestial' and `Oceanic', like the exaggerated production that had a tendency to apply metaphorical hyperbolic themes to the songs and vocals, which surreal in approach since they obviously contain a lot of Turner's accent - this small, but often noticeable difference between Isis and any other sludge band is important, no matter how small the details are because it provides us listeners with something fresh, with new appeal.
Turner's performance has always been the most recognisable and instantly appraisable aspect of the Isis sound. He is a constant source of enjoyment for the listener, who likes to indulge in listening to his passionate vocals that can come across as typical of the hard-faced genre that is sludge, but have enough character and evident pride to be taken lightly. A lot of the time, sludge is made or broken on the basis of the vocals. They need to be strong, but not overpowering. Often is the case that the vocals can harm the instrumentation, typically the bass and other subtle elements, but Turner doesn't allow this to happen due to his experience within the field. Isis are too wise for errors that existed on records like `Celestial' to still pose a problem for the audience nowadays. The modern day Isis is almost without fault, something which cannot be said of bands within the same musical bracket. In accordance with previous records like `Panopticon' and `In The Absence of Truth', Isis have resulted to notable walkways in order to direct their music down the right paths of life. For example, the inclusion of clean vocals. This area of the construction is my personal favourite. Turner's voice isn't the most astounding, he doesn't like to showboat like the vocalists of genres like power or progression metal - he just does his job accordingly and most importantly, fittingly to the sound of Isis. Songs like `Stone To Wake A Serpent' ambitiously show the intent of Turner on his seductive clean vocals. They're here to enhance the slower paced sections, mesmerise and taunt the audience as they toy with your emotions like a twisting and turning novel.
His prominent harsh screams, which we all know by now since they've been a factor of Isis' material since day one, are once again performed alongside the harsher sections of instrumentation. When the percussion begins to deliver beats that sound as if they're building towards an unstoppable crescendo that is about to run you down like a hit-and-run driver behind a huge truck, and the distortion of the spellbinding guitars sets into its stride, magically possessing your essence and controlling the emotions it feels, you know you're most likely going to see a typical Isis passage of play that incorporates harsh vocals. When the murky soundscapes and instrumentation slow down to that familiar aquatic formation, the emotive and harmonious clean vocals kick in and then you're truly lost to the hypnotising ways of the Isis hybrid. The best representatives of Isis' sound are `Ghost Key' and `Stone To Wake A Serpent', which both typically deliver the powerful performance we've come to expect from this ambiguous American act. The way in which Isis approach song structures can be seen more visibly here and its evident that there are two prominent methods of release. First, the slower construction that sees bass apply a more methodical sense of joy and the spiralling undertow of the guitars is really where that post-rock feel can be found. The spiralling effect gives the audience a chance to relive the days when Isis supplied a totally aquatic feel on `Oceanic', which was aptly named. The variation in instrumentation is important, too. It reminds the listener that, although Isis have sounded fairly similar for a few years now, that they still have enough gas left in the tank to successfully pull off the same sound they themselves derived back on the enthralling `Panopticon'. The best yet.
on 26 May 2009
I've listened to this album several times now and can confirm that it maintain's the high standards we have come to expect from Isis, the production in particular is flawless. As has been already stated the music is a little heavier that Panopticon (my favourite) and IAoT but they've not lost the slow melodic and often fragile passages that so beautifully build up and evolve into beautiful, powerful cresendo's which fill your head full of gorgeous noise. The transitions, however, are often more stark and the build ups shorter and simpler. Don't get me wrong there are still long passages of 'Wavering Radiance' where beauty and power exist in perfect harmony. The last 2 tracks are a perfect example of this.
All in all I rate it 4.5 stars, because I prefered Panopticon, and I don't give away 5 stars as easily as most reviewers. But this is still an excellent offering from a truly inspirational band.
on 6 May 2009
Having heard 20 Minutes/40 Years on their Myspace Site, I had no doubts this would be a great Album.
Once again Isis manage to fuse Melody and Power to a perfect blend.
The mix of Gruff and Melodic Vocals really set this off beautifully and the Guitar work is just brilliant.
Anyone who likes Torche, Pelican, Red Sparrowes, in fact anyone with ear for quality Rock should buy this.
on 25 October 2010
Having heard a lot of buzz about Isis via the Tool website, I decided to check their latest offering out, and I'm glad I did. There are some stunning rhythms and soundscapes to behold, driven by superb and tasteful drumming throughout.
Repeated listening is required to do Wavering Radiant justice, but the stand-out tracks are very rewarding once familiar. Also considering there are tracks over 7 minutes long on here, the whole album still flows effectively without becoming a chore.
However, the reason I rate this 3/3.5 stars, is the vocals. I am no stranger to the extreme music genre, but for me the gutteral vocals are just too ham-fisted and don't serve the music well. There are other ways Isis could experiment vocally without sledgehammering on top of the melodies.
There are some more melodic vocals along the way, which sit better within the overall sound, but even still they lack identity. Personally I think a new vocal style/singer is needed for the band to progress to any further heights.
In summary this is a worthy purchase, if a little frustrating that the vocals don't match the musical quality of the band otherwise.