Isis
Panopticon


4.0
excellent

Review

by asheroth USER (9 Reviews)
February 28th, 2006 | 43 replies


Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist


The best word to describe Isis is big. Their songs are big Ė the shortest song on this album clocking in at over six and half minutes. Their music is big Ė lush, rolling soundscapes that crash down around you and slowly draw you in. And, with the release of Panopticon in 2004, Isis have established themselves as big in the world of post-metal. If youíre a fan of Pelican, Red Sparowes, early Explosions In The Sky or later Neurosis, Iím willing to bet youíve got this. And if you donít, then you should. It wonít change the way you think about music, but itís a damn good listen.

I donít know a lot about early Isis, so I canít compare this to Oceanic or anything. But Panopticon stands just fine by itself. Isis make epic music, the kind of music that would fit a slow-motion battle scene in a film. The band are masters of gradual buildups and thick, dense explosions of sound, and this the format that most Isis songs follow. Simple but strangely intricate melodic passages wind around lightly distorted guitar parts and unassuming drumming to create music thatís almost like a wide, slow river, such is the quiet sense of contentment and relaxation that it conjures up.

It is worth mentioning at this point that Isis have not completely eschewed vocals in the style of traditional post-metal. There are moments where singing becomes the main focus, moments that are all the more precious for their rarity. The vocals take the form of either a fairly generic and average singing voice, or a kind of strained yell. In either case, the vocal melodies are invariably composed of long, drawn out notes Ė no quick singing here. It somehow adds to the overall epicness of the album.

The vocals are set fairly far back in the mix, with the emphasis being on the instrumental work. And in the end, this is what makes the album. Gradually shifting guitar melodies in repetitive strumming patterns alternate with more fragile, higher guitar lines. The drums are never really noticeable, but they tie everything together nicely. Itís definitely easy listening Ė itís very easy to just sit back and let the music wash over you. I almost never get bored listening to any track on Panopticon, because Isis always abandon any given section before it gets old. The contrast of heavy, sludgy chords with breezier, more melodic passages is pulled off very, very well.

The songs all sound relatively similar in terms of length and structure, so a track-by-track wonít do anyone much good. Standout tracks for me include Backlit, which has an amazingly relaxing opening instrumental passage, contrasting beautifully with the heavier section after it, Wills Dissolve, which feels so much shorter than its 6:46, and Altered Course, featuring a beautiful ambient section that continues for the entire second half of the song.

The one thing that takes this album from good to great is a factor common to most post-rock and metal. Panopticon is flexible. You can spin the album and go about your daily business Ė Isis make great background music Ė or you can pay attention to exactly whatís going on, and youíll discover something new pretty much every time. Isis manage to be simple and intricate at the same time. Overall, Panopticon is very good, and is capable of standing up to many listens without becoming boring. 4/5



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user ratings (2147)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
asheroth
February 28th 2006


130 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I felt that a track-by-track wasn't the best format to review an Isis album in. Hopefully this gives a better idea of what the album sounds like.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
March 1st 2006


3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was gonna review this

ocelot-05
March 1st 2006


807 Comments


Aren't Isis pretty similar to Pelican?


asheroth
March 1st 2006


130 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

They are, except they tend to mix up their structures a bit more than Pelican, whose songs generally start at a point and flow from there. There's actually a point in one of the songs where it sounds suspiciously like Autumn Into Summer. But the vocals tend to make it different enough.

any14doomsday
March 1st 2006


679 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is good but, Oceanic is better IMO, pretty good review.

Riva
March 1st 2006


61 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I enjoy this album more than Oceanic, actually. Though I still prefer Pelican as my post-metal band of choice.

Good review, also.

Concubine
March 1st 2006


333 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I've only heard Backlit, but i have Oceanic and i like it... , is this album better than celestial??

Kage
March 1st 2006


1172 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

[QUOTE=ocelot]Aren't Isis pretty similar to Pelican?[/QUOTE]
Essentially yes, but once you get beyond the superficial ideas of their music, they're actually quite different in sound and approach to songwriting.

any14doomsday
March 1st 2006


679 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

after a few spins of both bands (pelican & ISIS) you notice they are very diffirent.

Also this cd owns celestial.

what I really should have said is "This is awesome, but Oceanic is better IMO"

AlienEater
March 1st 2006


716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i totally agree with any14doomsday

Iron Bars
March 3rd 2006


9 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I also agree with any14doomsday. i one got into this post metal stuff lately but I'm enjoying this album very much.

asheroth
March 10th 2006


130 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You wouldn't be the Iron Bars from Malazan, would you? :P

Dried Muffin Remnants
September 20th 2006


297 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I disagree with your opinion of Altered Course.... sure, it is ambient, but it sounds like it's easily the weakest link. In fact, it keeps this album from being perfect. Every song on here would get a 5/5 except for Altered Course which would receive a 3/5 from me.


nagstar89
August 3rd 2010


71 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^^ it would have been a better track had it not followed up the 1st 4 mins with the largely same recycled drum pattern.it drags on for a bit too long.But the 1st 4mins or so is a melter.

eternium
August 3rd 2010


16338 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I actually agree on Altered Course.

eternium
August 3rd 2010


16338 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It is awesome, but drags on. Small fault and the only one on this album.

eternium
August 3rd 2010


16338 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

They're all just perfect. Grinning Mouths gives me chills.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 3rd 2010


15035 Comments


the second song is the best one

kangaroopoo
August 3rd 2010


3175 Comments


Panopticon is melodic and ambient but still intense. Oceanic is also excellent yet has a heavier, coarser sound. Their last 2 albums (In The Absence of Truth / Wavering Radiant) are not as well liked here but I found them a quality listen.

Pelican are instrumental post-rock. Isis are post-metal with quality vocals. I find Isis a lot more diverse and interesting.

acorncheese
August 3rd 2010


7119 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Absence is my favorite Isis album.



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