Review Summary: Driven by stunning drumming and sublime guitar work, In the Absence of Truth serves as an accumulation of everything that makes this band so masterful.
For some, Isis can be presented as a band that needs some time to sink in as a whole. Their perfected style of combining the heaviness of post metal and often tranquil leanings of post rock truly makes them a beast of their own. More often than not, they bend both of these genres to their own will in order to create a unique and profound experience. This happens to be how Panopticon
were conceived. Even though their swan song sees the band generally moving away from their typical styles in favor of a more progressive leaning, In the Absence of Truth
sees the band laying in the crossroads. It can’t be called a post metal record or even a post rock record and that’s more than satisfactory. Significantly less heavy than any of their other works, this album sees the band in a transitioning period as they combine elegance and heaviness unlike any of their other records. Much like their equally influential counterparts Neurosis, this record not only sees that band doing their own thing, but evolving once more. It may not have as much immediate staying power as their other albums, but In the Absence of Truth
serves as one of the band’s most challenging records to date. The record is a different approach for them as a whole, but they remained immensely true to themselves in the process.
Unlike previous records, this sees Aaron Harris truly stealing the show at many points during the record. In the past, his drumming as always been quite good, but still contained in order to keep a steady groove going. It’s as if the band let the stellar man out of his cage to wreak havoc with his chaotic rhythms. In addition to his stunning Danny Carey influenced performance, the many memorable guitar moments helps aid Aaron in his sensational playing. “Wrists of Kings” best showcases these two expertly conceived performances as the lead and rhythmic guitar provide an extra dose of atmosphere practically unheard of since “Weight” from Oceanic
. The song continuously impresses with its elegance and thought provoking nature and these qualities never let up throughout the record. “Dulcinea,” one of the record’s most challenging songs, seemingly starts out on an uneventful note, but soon explodes into a fray of aggressive guitar work and harsh vocals. However, it soon slows down to allow the versatile drumming and dazzling guitar work together in order to create an achingly heartfelt crescendo. From top to bottom, this proves to be a record that’s driven by its emotional atmosphere with the help of the unyielding drumming, charismatic bass work and beautiful guitar tones.
Another aspect of In the Absence of Truth
that really makes it stick out like a sore thumb is the substantial emphasis on elegant playing rather than the in your face style the band normally embodies so well. Like Neurosis, their innovative take on metal happens to be what makes them so amazing, but throwing a chunk of those elements away was indeed a risky move that paid off more than the band could have possibly imagined. Take “1,000 Shards” for example, with Aaron Turner’s heavily processed vocals and lush guitar playing paving the way. The memorable riffs all lead up to a wall of sound driven solo that leaves a lasting impression on the listener. However, make no mistake that in the last minutes Aaron’s harsh vocals come back into the mix in grand fashion, keeping their roots intact. Heavily inspired by “Weight,” the album’s most experimental track “Firdous E Bareen” showcases Harris’ drumming in a haunting manner. His brooding style keeps building up the thought provoking nature of the track and with the help of stunning synthesizers and stellar guitar work, it soars high as one of the best on the record. These two songs serve as a testament to how well this collective can balance out their more moving style and aggressive style.
For those who crave more of their past, “Not in Rivers, but in Drops” and “Holy Tears” are quite the treat. “Not in Rivers, but in Drops” kicks off with an incredible bass groove that eventually gives way to an endless fray of memorable sections. The talented instrumental work never lets up and Turner’s vocals remain extremely steady throughout the entire thing. “Holy Tears” proves to be the more thought provoking piece out of the two, with the song throwing the listener right into a simple yet effective riff straight away. The heavy and light are balanced out in a perfect fashion yet again as Aaron’s beautiful clean vocals soar in the verses. These songs prove how dynamic the band can truly be as a whole and how this album has something every fan could want from an Isis record. It's an accumulation of everything the band can do so exceptionally well into the very last song.
Out of the band’s five closers, “Garden of Light” exists as the one that holds the most weight. All of their albums should be listened to as a whole experience in order to get the most out of their intellectual work, but “Garden of Light is the part that excretes the most staying power by the end of this particular experience. It’s one of the most passionately constructed songs in their whole discography and this album alone. Significantly more post rock influenced than the others, the band lets their influences run amok to great effect here. The stunning introduction of tremolo picking and somewhat tribal drumming builds into spectacular metal climax, but once the heavy middle section slows down, the biggest build up begins closing out the record. By means of tight percussion and lushness, it keeps building and building until the evocative guitar tones close out the song, delivering a grandiose level of catharsis. Listening straight through to this song makes the pay off all the more satisfying.
This record proves to be one hell of an anomaly in the band’s discography. It acts like a pendulum that keeps swinging, with post metal laying in the middle. However, on the two apexes, there lays post rock and progressive metal. Continuously swinging from one genre to the next, it’s an album that cannot be truly pigeonholed into one of them and it accomplishes this aspect with graceful finesse. In the Absence of Truth
has tracks that every Isis fan can wrap their head around and serves as their most dynamic to date. It’s also one of their most challenging and thought provoking records. However, it is for this reason that it could be tough to get into on the first listen. Only upon further listening can the large levels of greatness be revealed. The term “grower” is often thrown around, but this happens to be the definition of the word and further listening is nothing sort of gratifying.