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Old 01-11-2005, 05:33 AM   #1
caspian
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(Doom metal) Isis- Panopticon



(Bio courtesy of http://bands.metalland.net/cgi-bin/detail.cgi?id=3558&lang=en )
An initial bout of musical experimentation in the fall of 1997 is attended by favorable circumstances and results in the formation of ISIS-the core members of which are Jeff Caxide (bass), Aaron Turner (guitars/vocals) and Aaron Harris (drums). Various lineup shifts ensue before and during the recording of their debut EP, Mosquito Control (Escape Artist) and follow-up EP, The Red Sea (Second Nature). By the summer of 1999, the current ISIS lineup has taken shape with the addition of guitarist Mike Gallagher (ex-Cast Iron Hike) and electronics coordinator Cliff Meyer (ex-The Gersch). A triumphant tour with space rock sorcerers Cave In establishes ISIS' national presence, a position soon capitalized upon by a brief but fulfilling campaign with extremity experts Neurosis.

The millennium would see ISIS back out on the road (with Candiria and Dillinger Escape Plan) and in the studio recording their debut full-length, Celestial (Escape Artist, released summer 2000) and companion EP, Sgnl>05 (Neurot Recordings, released spring 2001), the latter of which includes a remix courtesy of industrial grandsire Justin Broadrick of Godflesh. The two releases remain landmarks in the ISIS catalog, leagues ahead of previous efforts both sonically and conceptually. Indeed, for those who took the time to immerse themselves in the attendant semiotics of the two records, the rewards were many. Celestial was not merely heavy for heavy's sake; it revealed the highly detailed and often subtle nature of ISIS' aural and visual blueprints-Sgnl>05 was an even more ambient extension of these latent aesthetics.

Spring 2001 brought the now infamous tour with Keelhaul and newly reformed sludge parsons Eyehategod, followed by support slots for UK grind titans Napalm Death and a summer headlining tour with Swiss hardcore machinists Knut and enfant terrible Joe Preston, a.k.a. Thrones. It is during this period of prolific cross-country excursion that ISIS' national exposure nears its apex.

With the pale seasons at hand, fall and winter 2001 commenced a brief hibernation period during which most of the music that would become Oceanic was written. Whereas Celestial was the culmination of past efforts, a full realization of ISIS' collective talents, Oceanic is the re-envisioning of that ideal, striking a balance between gravity and complexity, achieving a dynamic equilibrium through the sharpening and honing of harmonic elements. Featuring texturally enhancing guest performances from Ayal Naor and Maria Christopher of 27, Oceanic is clarity through understatement; total conceptual and atmospheric control via the harnessing of hydraulic and instrumental inspiration. Paring back the density of previous releases to reveal a more articulated melodic infrastructure, Oceanic is highly meditative and perceptually abstract, vaguely hallucinatory and eminently contemplative. Due out on Ipecac Recordings in September, it is a striking testament to ISIS' ongoing evolution.

Anyway, on with the review. IM pretty bad at writing reviews, so I'll just cut to the chase and review song by song:

1. So did we.
The best song on the album. It starts off with a pretty heavy and some shouted vocals, but that’s not really an indication of what’s too come. It quickly goes into a great melodic part and stays there for a while, slowly building up the tension. One thing that is particularly good about this song is the vocal melody line. Aaron Turner isn’t the best vocalist ever, but the sung section sent shivers down my spine when I first heard it. The ending is amazing. There’s some heavy guitars with a weird high pitched (synth?) line over the top. This is a good introduction to Isis, as its also the song that changes the most on this album

2. Backlit.
This one opens wth a nice major key guitar line. The bass sounds particularly good in this song, it really makes it better. The riffing does seem a little bit lazy in some parts of this song (chromatic descending riff? Wtf?) but its still pretty **** good. Another problem would be the build up in the second half of the song. I’m all for building up tension, but it just takes too long. Still, its a very good song. 4/5.

3. In fiction.
The weakest song on the album. There’s a great minor-key intro riff, which you might enjoy at first. Except for the fact that the intro riff goes on for 3 minutes, with little variation except for the bass doing a bit of noodling. The rest of the song is actually quite good, but the problem is getting past that part. It’s really freaking boring. 3/5.

4. Wills Dissolve
This song starts off with an absolutely beautiful synth part. Like In fiction, this song takes a very long time to get going. However, it doesn’t get boring, with the intro riff (a kind of classical minor key guitar bit) being busy enough to keep your interest. This song gets pretty heavy, it’s probably got the fastest bits on the album (which isn’t very fast, but still.) That’s one of the great things about Isis. They don’t have to be very fast too blow your mind. This song builds up again and again, with a great ending. 5/5.

5. Syndic Calls
I wish I knew what the song title meant, but that doesn’t take away from a kick *** song. This song is a bit similar to Backlit in terms of structure, with 2 clearly different parts. The first part isn’t up to much, but the second part is incredible. Over the heavy riffing and pounding drums there’s some great synths, that really push this song on to the next level. There’s also some pretty good singing and screaming in this song. This song is incredible.. It has it all.. singing, screaming, clean, heavy, beauty and erm.. brutalness. 5/5.

6. Altered Course
This is my favourite song on the album. This song guest stars the tool bassist, but I cant really see why he’s here. This song seems to be the least favourite for most metal fans I know, but that’s fair enough, because this song is really slow for the most part. The first 3 minutes are pretty heavy, with a lot of riffing, and for this part it seems like its the heaviest song yet. However, the last 7 (!) minutes is very slow synth beats. Its almost like a Trance track,. That doesn’t detract from it though. Over the 7 minutes, the synths slowly build up on top of each other over and over again. Its very beautiful (as I’ve said about 5 times) but extremely repetitive. Not a song for Grindcore fans though. 5/5.

7. Grinning Mouths
This song is back to the heaviness. It starts off with a fairly upbeat heavy riff, and it mutates and morphs over the 8 minutes. There’s some fairly conventional riffing at the end of this song, instead of the "Big chords of doom" style that’s in most of this CD. Its still amazing. Once again, there are some awesome synths over the riffing at the end of the song, but they play more of a background role. The climax is stunning, and appropriate for an album as good as this one. The drums really pound out the beats with some big guitar riffing. Again, an excellent song. 5/5.

Simply put, this is one of the best album’s I’ve ever heard. Someone described this as "Classical written by Heavy Metal Fans" and I can agree with that. These songs aren’t really about the destination, they’re about the journey. The soundscapes created in this album are mystical, brutal, uplifting, depressing, beautiful. They’re everything you could want. It speaks volumes that people from my mum to me to my death metal fanatic friend can like this record. It’s an incredible record, the kind of record that only comes once in a lifetime. The one problem with this record could be the production, with the vocals very hard to understand (although that might he deliberate. ) and the guitars way too distorted in some parts. Otherwise though, this record is brilliant. 5/5.
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Old 01-11-2005, 12:25 PM   #2
Dancin' Man
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Cool. This is a really awesome album. Nice work man. You rated a little too high though. I'd give it 4.5/5
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Old 01-11-2005, 12:29 PM   #3
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I haven't heard this, but I'm pretty damn sure it's not doom metal, knowing Isis as I do.
 
Old 01-11-2005, 01:20 PM   #4
Dancin' Man
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It has that sort of drone to it that lots of Doom does though.
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Old 01-11-2005, 02:51 PM   #5
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yeahhh it's still not really doom though. I'd go with Sludge.

Great band, great album. *is wearing Isis shirt right now*
I love to listen to this when I'm down or when I go to sleep, it's such an epic CD and a fitting follow-up to Oceanic. I think my favorite track is "Grinning Mouths", and for some reason I love that repetitive bass note that happens over and over, which I think Justin Chancellor does.
 
Old 01-11-2005, 03:51 PM   #6
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I thought, Justin played the bass line on Grinning Mouths as well, because it sounds like his tone. But he only plays on Altered Course.

I saw Isis in December. I'd have to say it was one of the most amazing shows i've seen besides Opeth or Tool. It sounded much better live.

Great review by the way. I agree, this is one of the best albums ever.
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Old 01-11-2005, 05:11 PM   #7
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Those last two posts got me thinking - Isis opens for Tool on next tour?
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Old 01-11-2005, 05:13 PM   #8
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Doom Metal?
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Old 01-11-2005, 05:38 PM   #9
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I don't even think Isis has played any big venues before. I can't imagine what it would sound like in an arena as opposed to a small club.
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Old 01-11-2005, 07:28 PM   #10
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ISIS are amazing, great review also.
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Old 01-11-2005, 09:53 PM   #11
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One of my favourite CD's. My top songs seem to be the exact opposite of yours.

I think if they tightened up the songs a bit and had more of the epic, all-too-rare singing explosions, a la ending to Syndic Calls and Grinning Mouths, they would be twice as addictive for me. I find the instrumentals a little bit monotonous at times.

Last edited by Conor; 01-11-2005 at 09:59 PM.
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Old 01-11-2005, 09:55 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fast Fingers
Those last two posts got me thinking - Isis opens for Tool on next tour?
Well, Justin Chancellor hinted at it, but I don't know if that means it'd be his choice for an opening band, or if its official.
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Old 01-12-2005, 04:57 AM   #13
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yeah, I know theyre not really doom metal, but thats what I've generally heard them catebgorised as. Conor, I prefer the instrumental parts. The only part IMO where the singing improves the songs is the sung part in So did we.
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Old 01-12-2005, 06:36 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Conor
I think if they .. had more of the epic, all-too-rare singing explosions, a la ending to Syndic Calls and Grinning Mouths, they would be twice as addictive for me.
I'd be willing to bet that at least part, if not most, of your love for the singing explosions is due to their rarity. You'd get jaded too easily if they had them too often.
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Old 01-12-2005, 01:38 PM   #15
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No Doom Metal here.
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Old 01-12-2005, 08:11 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartender
I'd be willing to bet that at least part, if not most, of your love for the singing explosions is due to their rarity. You'd get jaded too easily if they had them too often.
Yeah, but with Isis I get a feeling they get off having very abstract song structures and creating atmosphere, which is part of what makes them an excellent band, but on the other hand my favourite parts are when they do the conventional vocal melodies, I don't want them throwing those parts out left and right, and I do love waiting for them, and I do love the instrumentals, but that is the one thing I'd change about them to make them my perfect band. Of course I'm just getting into them so this could all change in a week.
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Old 01-14-2005, 09:57 PM   #17
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Good album, good review, bad genre classification.
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Old 01-15-2005, 05:47 PM   #18
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What should they be called? Atmospheric metal?
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Old 01-15-2005, 06:17 PM   #19
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That is closer. I just heard Mosquito Control and ****, it is good.
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Old 01-15-2005, 08:11 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FadedSun
What should they be called? Atmospheric metal?
That's a good classification. I just called 'em "Metal".
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Old 01-15-2005, 08:50 PM   #21
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It's the same sort of thing as Mastodon. You feel like you should categorize them as something more specific than metal but there isn't anything that fits right.
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Old 01-15-2005, 08:57 PM   #22
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Thats so true. High five, Mastodon review buddy.
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Old 01-15-2005, 09:06 PM   #23
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Thanks. I think I'll review either Red Sea or Mosquito Control tonight.
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Old 01-15-2005, 09:13 PM   #24
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I haven't heard The Red Sea, so I personally would like to see that.

Does anyone have sgnl05 or Celestial?
 
Old 01-15-2005, 09:48 PM   #25
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I have Celestial

I lied. I was halfway through Mosquito Control and my brother blew a fuse.

Slsk me if you want it. I may have Sngl>05 but I'm not sure. I have some unnamed album i can't match with anything.
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Old 01-15-2005, 10:39 PM   #26
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I have sgnl 05, its pretty good. Nothing compared to this one though. The celestial remix is awesome though.
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Old 01-16-2005, 02:19 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by br3ad_man
Good album, good review, bad genre classification.
ditto
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