Review Summary: Callisto's sophomore effort is not only just for fans of post-metal like Isis, but can be for a fan of any genre of music as long as they have an open mind.
Sludgy post-metal seems to be all the rage nowadays in the metal community. Bands like Isis, Cult of Luna, and Pelican each bring their own special flavor to the ever expanding genre. All three bands have backgrounds in hardcore within their respective communities and that shines through in their music. Dissonant chords and screamed vocals (in the cases of Isis and Cult of Luna) are musical techniques ripped straight out of a hardcore handbook while Pelican brings unrelenting sludge and melody to the table. Callisto is an amalgamation of the three aforementioned bands and also brings in their own influences from free jazz as well.
Callisto's sophomore effort easily bridges the gap between their first atmospheric sludge effort and their later strictly post metal works. The guitars play a combination of jazzy and melodic licks, dissonant chords, and crushing power chords that all meld together into a cohesive melody that can attract listeners of all genres of music. The bass, which is actually audible, rarely sticks to playing root notes and fifths. The bass lines provide not only rhythm and support, but it crafts its own counterpoint that compliments whatever the guitarist is doing. The drummer has a very jazzy and syncopated style that at first doesn't seem all that flashy, but slowly reveals itself to be more technical that what first impressions may point it out to be. The vocalist repertoire consists of a hardcore shout and assortments of tortured yelps and barks. Quite clearly he is the least proficient member of the band, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Each song on the album is an individual sprawling epic that becomes more and more advanced as the music progresses. The band loves to play off the loud/quiet dynamic that bands have been pulling since the Pixies, but Callisto manages to put the loud/quiet dynamic on it's head. There are buildups that lead back down to quiet bits that then buildup to another letdown. "The Fugitive" is a great example of that type of musicianship. Each song has it's own distinct quality and thus it would be an arduous task to try and individually critique each one. So, I'll solely concentrate on my favorite track on the album, "Woven Hands".
"Woven Hands" begins with a sample or spoken word piece, I don't know exactly what it is, and a soft keyboard pad that gives off a 50s B-movie vibe. Soon thereafter, the guitars and bass come in playing a soft melody. The mood changes slightly, becoming more frantic as the guitars move from playing just legato guitar licks to chords. This continues for some time until the distortion kicks in, hitting you in the face like a bulldozer going the speed of a sports car. The pace slows down to funeral dirge speeds, but it continues to get heavier. The guitars build up to an apex that couldn't get more intense and suddenly relieve the tension by getting quieter and introducing some horns. Just as suddenly as the heaviness turned into relaxation, the song ends abruptly, fading into nothingness.
Callisto manages to take the best elements of the biggest post-metal bands and combine them into a musical unit that operates with such intensity and emotion that it's almost unbearable. This album falls just short of being perfect due to some length issues, but nonetheless it is an excellent piece of work.