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Isis - Wavering Radiant CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.02 | 204 ratings

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Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars Isis to me is one of those strange anomalies. I typically don't like the growly vocals that are usually present in sludge metal or post metal bands. I can tolerate them when they are melodic in their growling, as with 'Baroness' or 'Agalloch', but Isis' lead singer's dirty vocals are not melodic at all. Yes he does sing clean vocals, but not very often. The thing with Isis is their music is excellent and their songs so well composed and complex, so I hardly even notice them unless I really think about it. Even though many consider this their most accessible album, the growling is still very dominant. The one difference is, the focus is more on melodic tracks, so I guess that makes it more accessible.

Anyway, I cannot explain why I love this band so much. It has to be because they are better than the norm. The sad thing is, it was a year after the release of this album that the band would break up. This would be their last full album. But, at least they went out heading in the right direction.

A lot of people tend to compare this album to Tool, but, except for the track 'Threshold of Transformation', I don't get that comparison. It might be in the complex structure of the songs, but Tool doesn't own the market on that writing style, because other bands like 'Opeth' and 'Agalloch' do the same thing, and quite truthfully, Gabriel's Genesis (and some of the early Collins' Genesis) mastered the use of complexity in the lyrical sections of their music, refusing to follow the verse/chorus structure used in so much rock and pop music. So that's really nothing new. Tool doesn't have growly vocals of course, but that is the most minor of the non-comparisons. Isis in this album utilize more keyboards than Tool, and tend to experiment more in the use of keyboards in a metal band along with more unique atmospherics. Isis also utilizes the heavy post metal structures that Tool doesn't. Don't get me wrong, I love Tool as much as any other Tool fan, but I just think the comparison is unfounded. The music really compares more to Agalloch than Tool.

This album does use the haunting clean haunting vocals much better than previously. I would be more of a fan if Aaron used less of the growls, even on this album. The musicianship and composition of the songs is top notch though, and that pretty much cancels out the annoying vocals, almost. The songs are still dark and heavy though, with more atmospherics than before, they are also still very complex song structures. Even with the loudness, there are plenty of places that allow the music to breath. And then there is the beautiful interludes that continue through 'Ghost Key' that contrast to the loud sections in the same song that I find intriguing and wonderful. Both 'Hand of the Host' and 'Hall of the Dead' bookend 'Ghost Key' and the placement is perfect as they have plenty of loud, heavy passages and complexities that even bring out the haunting melodies of 'Ghost Key' even more.

'Stone to Wake a Serpent' has more of a psychedelic feel to it with its interesting guitar sounds in the quieter passages. The addition of the organ playing alongside the guitar riff towards the middle is a nice touch giving the song that retro 'Uriah Heep' vibe. With its share of loud and quiet alternating sections, it is overall a more pensive tune. The screeching of the guitar is also an interesting contrast. Also, as I mentioned earlier, 'Threshold of Transformation' has that Tool sound to it with the thumping, complex bass line. Isis uses an organ to support that bass making it seem more unique. Except for the Japanese release, this is the last track on the album, and possibly, ending with a 'Tool-like' track, maybe that is why the comparison is made, but one track doesn't make an album, and the track is still good anyway, because in the last half, it veers away from that sound to a heavier and brighter guitar solo. If you are lucky enough to have the Japanese version, you will be treated to one more track 'Way Through Woven Branches', which is another great track with a great beginning guitar riff and like the other songs, is a great study in extremes.

The band wanted to make the album one that had more balance to it, and I think they succeeded in this. The album seems to be more progressive than ever, with a lot more dynamics and melodic touches. Each track has plenty of room to develop because, with the exception of one short track that serves as a bridge, tracks stay in the range of 6 to 11 minutes each. It is a shame that this would be their last album as I feel they were heading for something even bigger, but they had a good run and provided us with some of the best Post Metal out there. I could almost give this a 5 star rating, but the dirty vocals keep it from being perfect. But I must say, it is close.

TCat | 4/5 |


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