Review Summary: Nothing will ever compare.
That was the day that everything changed.
I was browsing Sputnik one day, and I saw, in the "featured" section, a review for some band called Isis
and their album Panopticon
. I'd just been introduced to post-metal by a Finnish band called Callisto
, and I was liking what I was hearing so far. The natural ambiance and the slow, epic buildups of the genre appealed to me, and I was looking for some more bands like Callisto. I'd heard of Isis before (seeing as how huge they were in the post-metal scene, it'd be impossible for even a total rookie like me to not have heard of them), so, out of curiosity, I clicked on Syncratic's review. His beautifully written review called the album perfect in every aspect, and after reading it, I decided that this was something I had to hear. So I promptly purchased and downloaded the album on iTunes, synced it to my iPod, and listened to it.
It began with opener So Did We,
whose particularly brutal beginning caught me off guard. The intensely distorted guitars and the relatively quiet but extremely grating vocals were nothing like what I had expected, but I was once again surprised when the song segued into a beautiful, reverb and delay-heavy quiet section. As the song progressed, these loud-quiet dynamics and massive crescendos grew to amaze me, and by the time it transitioned into 2nd track Backlit,
my jaw was hanging on the floor. That was the moment that I became obsessed with post-metal as a whole, but my biggest revelation would not come for another couple of tracks.
After finishing the 9-minute disgustingly unique and strangely happy-sounding "Backlit," I was convinced that this really could not get any better. But then 3rd track In Fiction
came on. It began with a quiet, haunting riff, played over and over. I remember feeling bored at first: when will this end? But then I listened closer. I noticed how, every now and again, a new layer of guitar or bass was added; always discreetly, always tastefully. The main riff slowly grew, and by the time the drums came in, I had the strangest feeling that this would be an experience that I would not soon forget. The guitar, bass (something I wasn't used to hearing, with my metalcore background and all), and drums grew and grew, and then the vocals came in. One's first impression of the vocals would be that this dude really can't sing, but his grating voice fits the music very well. The distortion then came in at full force, and the vocalist sang his last line, forever ingrained in my memory. The guitars went into a sweeping riff for a few bars, and then dove into the single heaviest part of the song, a riff that sent me into a frenzied spasm of headbanging. This riff literally made me feel like I was rising into the sky on this chaotically beautiful tide of distortion; but then, all of a sudden, it ended, and went back into a part reminiscent of the first 2 or 3 minutes.
My body dropped back to earth, and was firmly grounded until it went into an even quieter, almost all-bass section. But this wasn’t your average bass grove: it was a reverb heavy masterpiece of a riff that sent me into a trance, in which all the colors and shades around me seemed to intensify times 100, and, for once in a chaotic life, I was at complete and total peace. The guitars came in again in a soaring, medium-heavy section that once again sent energy flowing through my body, and I once again saw the earth slowly falling below me. It went on for a few bars in which I floated higher and higher. But then… This beautiful, majestic riff swooped down an octave, and into the one moment in music that I shall remember for the rest of my life. In a split second of revelation, I blasted up through the sky at a million miles per hour, and I looked down. The entire Earth was spread out before me, yet I could see everything as if it were but 10 feet away. This is what it means to live. I felt every breath swell through my lungs, and wondered at the miracle of my heart beating inside of my chest. This was, and probably will be, the only time that a song made me cry. Because, looking down on that majestic, living, and breathing panorama of distortion, I wept. It went on until it held one chord for a few bars, and I rose to heaven, and saw the face of God smiling down on me. I stopped weeping, for emotion had risen to the point where I couldn’t force myself to let out the tremendous scream that had built up inside me. And then, as the song transitioned back into that heavenly bass riff, I was gently brought back down to earth, and a lump rose in my throat, for I knew that it was over. But even after the song had ended, everything and everyone seemed a little brighter, a little more lifelike. This song changed the way I looked at music and even the way I lived, and it is something that I will never
None of the other songs had the profound impact on me that In Fiction did, but they still remain some of the most breathtaking pieces of music I have ever listened to. From the awesomely weird and unique riff to Wills Dissolve
, to the pure epicness of Syndic Calls
, to the strange and beautiful ambience of Altered Course
, to the smashing climax of Grinning Mouths
, this album is, in my eyes, pure musical perfection. Since then, I’ve heard many more incredible, brutal, and beautiful albums, but none so powerful as this. For this was the album that brought my appreciation of music to the next level, and without it I probably would’ve never discovered and listened to all those other amazing and unique albums. I will never, ever forget the moment when In Fiction reached its climax, and nothing in the foreseeable future will ever come close to the revelation that it brought me. This remains my favorite album of all time, and now, with Isis gone for good, it becomes even more meaningful to me. And I’m sure that, with a bit of open-mindedness and a willingness to truly soak in all that this masterpiece has to offer, Panopticon
will become a classic for anyone who’s ready to let it be one.