Review Summary: Another incredible genre-shifting milestone for post-metal titans.
"Avant garde" metal can be an irritating genre pocket. Bands that have little in common are often thrust together under the same roof of "progressive" or "experimental" simply because they don't conform to any standards set in stone by thousands of metal bands before them. Bands like Tool who were raised on grunge and nu-metal share realms with bands such as The Melvins or Kayo Dot, who are born of much different circumstances and make a separate brand of music. "Progressive" is confusing enough of a term when it's slapped on bands like Pink Floyd and Yes simply because they move from one idea to another, but when it's also branded on the likes of bands such as Dream Theater and The Mars Volta it is easy to note the complete difference in sound and execution and wonder if it is really worth all the trouble.
Luckily, few would bother arguing with Isis being labelled progressive; with one listen to In the Absence of Truth
(or any of their earlier releases), it is appropriate in the literal sense, if not the genre-specific term. Isis takes metal to a new progression, moving past boundaries that the majority of their counterparts relish to create something new from worn fabric. Often it seems that a genre such as metal is nothing more than a dynamic to them, a counterpart to post-rock's soft and thoughtful meanderings or sludge's browbeating pulses. The band utilizes these entire classes of sounds in one continuous thought, not once appearing out of their element or at a lack of control. With this record, it is more apparent than ever that Isis is at the top of their game.
As it can be with most records which delve into the post-rock arena, In the Absence of Truth
is not necessarily an album you would associate with track names. The nine tracks here average out to about eight minutes each and it feels at times like one hour-long song, continuously shifting, reprising and falling back into itself. It begins beautifully in an epic fashion with "Wrists of Kings" and refuses to let up, whether it is pounding away with metallic assaults or lingering graciously with sonic soundscapes. For sixty minutes, it always attempts to remain interesting and rarely fails, and that is a very unlikely feat for most any band, much less bands who craft such eclectic and thoughtful pieces of music.
In the Absence of Truth
is nearly untouchable; every track is solid and the entire composition is ingeniously thought-out. Perhaps the only problem to be found is that like many bands who cater to their post-rock tendencies, this definitely has potential to wear thin on a listener with a short attention span. In my case, this is completely hypothetical since my undivided attention is given whenever the first notes begin to pour out of my speakers, but it is easy to imagine people with simpler tastes yawning around the third track and moving towards a band that instantly gratifies. This is perfectly understandable; some simply prefer something more immediate. For those who prefer a band who could likely build on crescendoes and dynamics for hours at time, this is clearly made for you.
So perhaps this is not a classic, an album which appeals to everyone and never drops the ball, but it is without a doubt another incredible release by an incredible band who since their inception have not failed to amaze and impress; it is another piece of mounting evidence that Isis is nearly unstoppable. With Oceanic
, and now this landmark record under their belts, it remains to be seen whether Isis will ever release a slab of musicianship that is not astonishing. In the Absence of Truth
builds upon the mountain that Isis continue to climb, an apex in the lands of metal and post-rock that will hopefully never end.