Riding into the mainstream of metal after collaborating with prog-metal heroes Tool's bassist Justin Chancellor, Isis are one of the most peculiar success stories of the past few years: refusing to budge or change their own unrelentingly brutal sound to suit the market, but still making it huge in a scene where the genres it stems from (stoner and crust metal) are both as unfashionable as an atreyu hoodie will be in 3 years time.
Drawing on sludge band Neurosis for inspiration and combining the gruff bark of The Melvins with the progressive undertones of Corrosion Of Conformity, Isis sound like no other band on the market today. While technically fairly simple, Isis use evocative melodies and pummeling dynamic to beat the listener into a blissfull submission.
Celestial, their first album proper, is more cohesive than the scattered Mosquito Control EP and more refined than the small-city-destroying Red Sea EP. While a few familiar-sounding pulsing metal riffs can be found around the place (see the opening title track) they soon descend into arcing chaos, with half-time riffs leaping in and out of Aaron Turner's throat-burning screams.
But there is one thing consistent in the dyanmic of Celestial: even in the quieter moments, you can still hear the band plotting, wearing down the walls of your brain with a slow, steady sledge-hammer pace, planning their next onslaught of leaden-guitar fury to catch you off your guard. The off-kilter groove of tracks like 'Glisten' sound like a plotting general, recovering from a momentary retreat, pacing around formulating a new method of assault. This is not war in the style of an 80-minute face-pummell ala Meshuggah. No, this is a psychological war: the music against your sanity.
The steady rumble of tracks like 'Gentle Time' still nudge roughly against your cranium, gentled only by the interlude tracks, each a short, quiet stream of relief between each new barrage of slow, determined noise. The screeching, abrasive lead guitars tag team across one of the most unusual rythym sections in rock: odd, simple, split drumming caresses the grooves of the never-faulty but always unusual lines laid out by the bass.
So when looking through the CD rack at your local record store and coming across Celestial, ask yourself, "am i mentally prepared for the unrelenting onslaught of tracks like 'deconstructing towers'?" because if the answer is yes, then you are certainly in for a dizzying, thrilling, brilliantly executed ride to challenge the senses, test your longevity as a listener and to ultimately be played whenever you want the irritating raver kids at your party go the living *** home.