Isis are a Boston-based post-rock/post-metal outfit fronted by singer, musician and visual artist Aaron Turner. They have appeared on such underground labels as Hydra Head, Neurot and Ipecac. They are generally noted to be highly original, defying and defining genres since their forming in 1997. Their progressive avant-garde metal stylings have been compared to that Godflesh and Neurosis and have since influenced and been associated with bands like Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Old Man Gloom, Cult of Luna, Red Sparowes and Twilight.
'Wavering Radiant' is Isis' fifth and latest full-length album. It was released in April 2009 and features Tool guitarist Adam Jones on two of its tracks. I'll break down the first three tracks for you and what I thought of them:
"Hall of the Dead"
Every time I have put on a brand new Isis album for the first time, my jaw usually drops within the first minute. The first track did not have the usual effect, in fact I found it to be quite contrived and recycled, starting with the same early electronic drum samples from the beginning of 'Celestial,' followed by a generic example of the sludgy and scratchy guitar riffs and low semi-intelligible crooning vocals we heard in 'Panopticon,' interspersed with the tremolo electronic notes of their latest album, which did not really build up to anything, the anticlimax a rare miss for Isis.
Although amalgamation of previous albums coupled with introduction and reintroduction of lyrical themes has worked quite well for Isis in the past, there's just too much of their old stuff going on here to keep die-hard Isis fans excited, or even to hold the attention of potential new fans.
The guitar work from Adam Jones of Tool was really explicit from the very beginning of this song, his echoing, underlying rhythm section really adding a new swampish groove. This, along with a high G-scale bit of improvisation of varying tempo from Isis' lead guitarist formed the foundation for this section, which really detracted from their usual crunchiness and paved the way for some downright excellent progressive lead guitar work. Vocals move in and out of this song quite sporadically, changing intuitively from soft, clean singing, reminiscent of Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt, to the unforgiving screams of Oceanic, we all know and love. Sadly, it seems Adam Jones' contribution was short-lived, and it would have been better to see him utilizing his fantastic skill at ending songs here, as the conclusion of this was once again, frankly an anticlimax to an otherwise potential classic track.
"Hand of the Host"
Slow, lumbering and symphonic, rattling drums and bass give an impression of some of the later work of A Perfect Circle. Again, we see that very same crooning moving in and out monotonously, before even more gutteral choking. Whilst the hooks in this track are effective, they are again noticeably repetitive and incredibly recycled. It goes on like this for pretty much the rest of the album. Mehhh throughout. Four more long tracks of the same. Snore snore snoozey snooze.
Album art is fairly nice though, a simple lyrics sleeve with a few nice conceptual illustrations, but nothing especially new or innovative. Still worth a look though.
Its boring, its dull, its dreary however you look at it. I would not recommend this album to someone who is trying to get into Isis. Their early work will always be their best, as almost all their fans will agree. Nonetheless, this is still a passable album, for a truly outstanding group, even if it is mind-numbingly contrived and unorginal. Still not worth the cash though I'm afraid, unless you can manage to get it very cheap or second hand.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Hall Of The Dead
2 Ghost Key
3 Hand Of The Host
4 Wavering Radiant
5 Stone To Wake A Serpent
6 20 Minutes/40 Years
7 Threshold Of Transformation