On ISIS

ISIS: Bryant Clifford Meyer, Michael Gallagher, Aaron Turner, Jeff Caxide, Aaron Harris ~ X
ISIS ~ The Red Sea EP cover

The waves were calling him

~ On May 18, 2010, Isis announced their decision to break up following their final tour, with their final show to be in Montreal — the location of the band’s very first show — on June 23, 2010. Isis collectively stated they have “done everything we wanted to do, said everything we wanted to say,” and, as part of an agreement made by the band at its formation, it did not wish to be faced with the possibility that it would “push past the point of a dignified death.

Celestial (2000) ~ ISIS’ first album — imagine your inner soul being *beaten* with a metaphysical baseball bat for over an hour…
Oceanic (2002) ~ the unfathomable forces of the ocean, blasting and building and shaping and drawing the world into its unfathomable depths ~ the quintessential ISIS album ~ “Oceanic is the next logical step for Isis after the ugly, grandiose Celestial, the Aaron Turner-led outfit’s second full-length looking simultaneously inward and outward, reaching into the nether regions of outer space while still keeping its feet firmly earthbound. Yes, it’s an ambitious record, one that isn’t immediately consumed and digested — rather, it consumes and digests the listener with grand and hypnotic waves of sound. Songs blur together as aggressive, post-hardcore guitar riffery trades with lengthy, meditative bouts of electronic exploration, a technique that would result in plodding, pretentious mush in less capable hands. Instead, Oceanic successfully mirrors the dense, unimaginable power of its namesake, combining the minimalist metallic art of Godflesh with the bipolar mood swings and Black Sabbath muscle of West Coast brethren Neurosis. Turner’s deathcore growl-shouts serve to puncture the instrumental tension that balloons slowly and painstakingly inflates throughout the album’s 63 minutes, with ex-Dirt Merchants singer Maria Christopher occasionally drifting hazily into the arrangements. “Weight,” at nearly 11 minutes, doesn’t necessarily move as much as it evolves toward its goal, starting with lazy, but purposeful, melodic whale songs before logically concluding with Christopher’s repetitive dub vocal and a droning organ suggesting spiritual rebirth. Only Isis could get away with writing hardcore hymns about the inevitability of elemental forces and pull it off with such conviction and attention to detail. The album may initially seem to exist in hazy head space, but clarity comes with further submergence, assuming you’re willing to lay back and float, letting the water take you into both conscious and subconscious realms. Oceanic is a masterfully complex symphony of majestic noise and melody, an all-consuming trip into the earth and mind that defies genre and, often, description — simply put, a triumph.” — https://www.hpb.com/products/oceanic-689230014829
Panopticon (2004) ~ metal landscapes depicting everpresent observation and influence that keeps on *going and going* ~ introduced more advanced *post-rock* sounds and atmospheric, emotional harmonies ~ “If the glacial dynamics of previous metal and hardcore abstractions Celestial and Oceanic didn’t prove that Isis was a heavy band in every sense, then Panopticon should do the trick. The title comes from 18th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s prison design, which was later referenced by Michael Foucault in the 20th century. The idea is that a centrally placed guard or watcher can keep track of a large number of prisoners, and it excited Bentham and concerned Foucault. Heavy stuff for a metal band, huh? Both are quoted in the liner notes, bookended by aerial industrial photos laying out society’s open sprawl. It fits perfectly with the epic music on the disc itself, which is as angular as post-rock forefathers Slint and as cosmically expansive as Neurosis, yet closer to the intensity of hardcore than either of them. Panopticon has the same cagey wall of noise as Oceanic, although the end product here is a little more polished. Aaron Turner is still howling and growling, but he’s less reluctant to actually sing, just as the music is more inclined to stretch out into Pink Floyd’s velvet atmospherics, which were a part of Oceanic, too, but just not as pronounced as they are here. Turner’s lyrics are impenetrable, buried in the mix, but when they do pop through the haze of guitars and electronics they’re appropriately weighty and tied to the omniscient paranoia of the title.” ~ Wade Kergan, Rovihttps://www.hpb.com/products/panopticon-689230005728-6971124 // https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/4136-panopticon/
In The Absence of Truth (2006) ~ metal melodies breaking the walls and gardens that we inhabit ~ “…this time adding new elements of electronics, song structure, drumming complexity, and vocal techniques.” ~ “In the Absence of Truth goes further than those albums, but without ditching the signature elements– sharp, delayed/chorused guitar notes (the underwater bunker sound), swirling and ambient keyboards, crisp and dynamic drum and bass, Aaron Turner’s meditational chants and drowning-man growls. Everything’s more expansive and exploratory here, and fresh off Blood Mountain, Isis’s regular recordist Matt Bayles buffs each of the nine tracks with some hazy gauze, lodging a truly sleek, sumptuous, fathomless recording. In fact, the set’s so finely wound that on the first few listens it seemed like the steady diet of Tool had perhaps transformed Isis into an emaciated, innocuous version of their older selves. Not at all, kneejerks– these songs just require close (and repeated) listening to initiate an unravelling (It took me two months before I felt the background music become total immersion). The band’s never been ham-fisted, but In the Absence offers fewer crowd-pleasing quiet-to-loud dynamics– though they are there– and there are plenty of unexpected inversions: Excellent opener “Wrist of Kings” displays a three-minute tension-grabbing intro that slows and swivels instead of cresting, allowing Turner to soar, almost a whisper, over math-y drums. Smashing expectations, a few minutes later the crush and vocal growl emerge, long after the initial build has recoiled.” — https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/9662-in-the-absence-of-truth/
Wavering Radiant (2009) ~ building sounds to full release upon the “threshold of transformation” ~ culmination of ISIS previous themes and sounds into one, singular, *final* album ~ “Wavering Radiant continues the shifts made on 2006’s In the Absence of Truth– namely, more elaborate sonics and increased rhythmic variety– while also emphasizing the finer points of tempo and, especially, melody. Melodicism not only adds a new dimension to Isis’ music but another way to raise the tension, by silhouetting those melodies against their slabs of dissonance. As singer Aaron Turner told MTV, the potent, parallel forms of their past work– one instrument tailing the other– gave way in Absence to a flowing conversation of instruments. The effect there, and more so here, is a veto on thickness for the sake of thickness: The mix instead is stacked with accents and pairings that surprise and complement one another rather than feel redundant.” — https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/13009-wavering-radiant/

Yet under this Mortal Sun, We cannot hide Ourselves

I fell asleep in a world dressed in grey

The boy presses whispers into her, And they bathe in valley’s pale rain

~ art by John Martin
The Plains of Heaven 1851–3
~ “The sublime evades easy definition. Today the word is used for the most ordinary reasons, for a ‘sublime’ tennis shot or a ‘sublime’ evening. In the history of ideas it has a deeper meaning, pointing to the heights of something truly extraordinary, an ideal that artists have long pursued.”
~ The World ~ The World represents an ending to a cycle of life, a pause in life before the next big cycle beginning with the fool. The figure is male and female, above and below, suspended between the heavens and the earth. It is completeness. It is also said to represent cosmic consciousness; the potential of perfect union with the One Power of the universe. It tells us full happiness is to also give back to the world: sharing what we have learned or gained.

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