ISIS
In the Absence of Truth


4.5
superb

Review

by Sevengill USER (3 Reviews)
August 17th, 2014 | 104 replies


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "In the Absence of Truth" is a beautiful collage of story and sound. Anyone who disregards metal as immature and thoughtless needs to hear this.

There are a few reasons I never got into heavy metal. Chief among them is the prevailing notion that metal comes from a counterculture movement of angry young men and misunderstood social outcasts. Mom and dad say metal is for druggies and dropouts who wear fake leather and want to stick it to the man – avoid it at all costs because Beethoven has so much more to say about your life and where you’re going…right, whatever. Honestly, I was content to ignore it like the rest of the crowd that holds up a cross to metal like it’s a B-movie vampire until I heard this album. I studied music in college, and I find it comforting to do my homework on an album before listening – what’s the artist trying to do? What’s the context? Are the lyrics personal or fantasy? So when I started digging around for the concept behind In the Absence of Truth, I stumbled across a whole world of ideas. Man of La Mancha, Hassan-I Sabbah, perception of reality, House of Leaves, …and this is metal? It highlighted for me the tragedy in people’s reaction to anything that has to do with “heavy metal.”

Nothing is real. Everything is permitted.

The sound of Absence, much like its story, is a hard one to pin down. It’s complex, tortuous, at times simple and harmonious, but always elusive. I actually got goosebumps during “Dulcinea,” the third track, which represents the second of three peaks in the album. I say “peaks” because there are a number of threads that run throughout Absence, and one of the most prominent is a 3-on-2 beat drumming motif that appears in three key spots. Since the album is largely based around the travails of Don Quixote and his eternal search for Dulcinea – the woman of his dreams, in whom he saw “beauty overflowing through the tattered clothes” – it seems fitting to equate this galloping motif to our hero riding triumphantly onward. The first instance is, fittingly, at the album’s very beginning: “Wrists of Kings” immediately sets an epic historical stage for the album to follow (“Now our blood travels though the veins of our history…”). Isis uses heavily delayed guitar as the flesh of its sound, with simple and effective percussion as the backbone. Clean singing dominates the first half of the album, often tastefully detuned in deference to the dense layers of instrumentation; in other places, the climax of each song brings frontman Aaron Turner’s death growls to the fore.

He is not mad; his thought is clearer than the saner man.

Even with the unclean singing, there is nothing aggressive or threatening about Isis’ sound here. The voices are like characters in a story, where some speak in mellifluous tones and others in ominous rasps. On “Dulcinea,” these harsher vocals promptly give way to a beautiful guitar build, and back comes the galloping drum motif as our hero finds his courage anew. Like Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” and Jaws’ stomach-churning strings, Quixote’s riding theme arrives just in time to heighten the emotional impact of the moment. The middle third of Abesence returns to a mid-tempo concoction of legato guitar lines and gentle synthesizer swells, an ebb and flow of ideas that continues for three songs and represents perhaps the least engaging section of the album. And yet even the lowest-common-denominator moments are worthwhile as they build inexorably towards “Holy Tears,” a song that takes all that smoldering energy and releases it at the perfect moment following a steady climb of sparkling guitar tones and chanted vocals. Isis plays their hand masterfully on the last three tracks, as “Holy Tears” leads into a haunting eight-minute instrumental, “Firdous E Bareen.”

It was you who brought me here; yours, whose face greeted me, in the garden of light.

As layers of sound swirl and churn, hazy keyboards drift in and out of the mist, the whole piece becomes hypnotic, and another key concept of Absence becomes clear: perception of reality and truth. Man of La Mancha dwells on this theme, and so in turn does Isis. What is reality, and does the difference between it what we perceive really matter? Songs such as “Over Root and Thorn” are cyclical in nature, while “1000 Shards” and “Not In Rivers, But In Drops” are full of subversions and false endings, lending the album a labyrinth-like quality. By the time “Garden of Light” arrives, the overarching story has taken detours in every imaginable direction, Quixote has seen his love and lost her again, and hope has begun to fade. But just as things are looking their bleakest, our Dulcinea arrives to pull us back from the brink. The drums kick back into gear, those thunderous guitars begin to shimmer, and the mist clears as In the Absence of Truth soars to its triumphant finish. There aren’t really words to describe the feeling that Isis is able to conjure as all the pieces finally come together, and anyone who is intimidated by distorted guitars and unclean singing will likely have no idea the vast world that they are overlooking. Transcendent might be the best way to describe it, but frankly, mom and dad will probably look at you cross-eyed and ask what Ralph Waldo Emerson has to do with that devil-music on your stereo. But you…you will see its form transformed, from ash to golden throne.


user ratings (1808)
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • SubtleDagger (4.5)
    Another incredible genre-shifting milestone for post-metal titans....

    Syncratic (5)
    Wow......

    monochromatic (4.5)
    Isis has made a fantastic album here and in my opinion there best, not everyone will see i...

    5thEye (4.5)
    Isis show themselves to be an ever-progressing band, and prove to expand their musical fro...

  • Confessed2005 (4.5)
    Not their best album but by far one of the most intricate and beautifully composed pieces ...

    Nick Mongiardo (5)
    Driven by stunning drumming and sublime guitar work, In the Absence of Truth serves as an ...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Sevengill
August 17th 2014


10188 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Comments and criticism welcome. ❤

evilford
August 17th 2014


51778 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

pos'd awesome first review man



your monologue wandered in thought a bit at times but overall your writing is excellent, I'd read more reviews from you



also this album fucking rules sorry mom and dad but I'm a rebel

Digging: Dead and Dripping - Miasmic Eulogies Predicating an Eternal Nocturne

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
August 17th 2014


45215 Comments


Holy shit this is the best first review I've ever seen
best new user 2014

BMDrummer
August 17th 2014


14692 Comments


awesome review man, have a pos

Sevengill
August 17th 2014


10188 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks! though it's not my first music writing, just my first here (see: music major, creative

writing minor).

emester
August 17th 2014


8271 Comments


For a first review this spectacular, hell even as a review on its own you did an amazing job.

Funny thing really my parents (especially my father) supported my trek into metal

evilford
August 17th 2014


51778 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

my parents are scared of metal, they would burst into flames if they ever even found out I listen to death metal

emester
August 17th 2014


8271 Comments


My dad walked into my room while I was listening to Opeth and he actually dug it a bit (same story goes with my mother but I
think I actually got her into Agalloch)

Sevengill
August 17th 2014


10188 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"they would burst into flames if they ever even found out I listen to death metal"



how incredibly, ironically metal of them.

OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
August 17th 2014


17563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review Gill, I like how you broke it down into sections. I see you're on your way to exploring metal :-). Funny how when people who don't listen to metal mock it the first thing they pick on is the growling, considering its only a part of some sub genres

OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
August 17th 2014


17563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Are there privacy settings for reviews? This isn't on the main page

Sevengill
August 17th 2014


10188 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it said something about having to be approved by the moderators. dunno the protocol on that but it might be why.

evilford
August 17th 2014


51778 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

it also doesn't show up in my discussions but it will show up with all discussions

Sevengill
August 17th 2014


10188 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

then clearly we'll just need to keep in on the discussions board ;)

OmairSh
Contributing Reviewer
August 17th 2014


17563 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Maybe first reviews need to get checked, can't remember it was a while back :P. Really good album.

Artuma
August 17th 2014


32244 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

awesome review, pos'd

Jots
Staff Reviewer
August 17th 2014


7352 Comments


Fantastic review. And duh, pos'd

Mordecai.
August 17th 2014


8402 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Excellent review, and I was jamming 'Dulcinea' while reading it which added to the experience. You should review some Neurosis.

Sevengill
August 17th 2014


10188 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yay my first down vote. I feel like a real Sputniker now thanks for all the love guys.

Shuyin
August 17th 2014


14420 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

pree sweet for a first review so ill neg



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