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Isis - Wavering Radiant CD (album) cover

WAVERING RADIANT

Isis

Experimental/Post Metal


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5 stars Isis is a band I've always had trouble getting into, but when I started listening to this album I recalled my excitement for the first time listening to Tool's 10,000 Days. I won't go to track by track analysis, but I have to say that I've been addicted to Ghost Key. The unusual synthesizer opening, the brutal chorus and duet of the clean guitars make think of voyaging in a cold dessert in the morning. The music is very fresh here, the atmosphere is dense, the music can be extremely brutal and extremely emotional and delicate at the same time. Just listen to the ending Threshold of Transformation, that's one of the most beautiful things I've heard lately. Isis seems to prove itself as a generic band with this record and they surely gained me as a fan. I think this album with Mastodon's Crack The Skye is the most strong and rewarding album of 2009 so far. (Another strong candidates are John Frusciante's The Empyrean and Animal Collective's Merriwather Post Pavillion.) Just give this album some time, it will surely grow on you.
Report this review (#208708)
Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Perhaps Isis' best album, Wavering Radiant finds them more tuneful than ever before, more accessible than ever before, and they benefit from it a great deal. Isis have never sounded as poppy as they do on Ghost Key, for instance, although the brutality of their previous albums is still very much in evidence, as Stone to wake a serpent demonstrates. Wavering Radiant actually features what can be considered hooks, which, although it might seem anathema to Post-metal as a genre, works beautifully. This is one of the prettiest post-metal albums I have ever heard. A lot of all of this is due to the fact that the guitars are way, way lower in the mix than they were back in the Panopticon days, not only are the vocals very audible, but (and this is really what makes Wavering radiant sound so different from what has come before) the synths are finally given room to breathe, and it adds a lot more variety in the sound of this album than one would normally expect from Isis. Overall what defines this album as album of the year so far is the consistency across its length; every track is excellent, and none feel over-long, unlike on In the Absence of Truth. Highly, highly recommended.
Report this review (#209996)
Posted Friday, April 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars WAVERING RADIANT is the first Isis album I've heard that I actually enjoyed listening to. It is WAY more vocal and drum-based than previous outings and it is extremely brutal and heavy-hitting rather than spacey or meandering. A lot of the songs musically remind of Tool, but the vocals are a whole other matter. Aaron Turner is a very capable vocalist (though not as good as Mikael Akerfeldt or Maynard James Keenan) but he can still balance out death metal grunts and growls with melodic vocals--for a great example of this listen to the track "Hand of the Host." Without a doubt this is the most *musical* album Isis has ever released, although their previous release IN THE ABSENCE OF TRUTH is a close second. Check this out if you're a fan of, obviously, Tool, Pelican, Mastodon, Opeth, or just about any other post-metal or progressive death metal band out there. Highlights: N/A. GRADE: A- (90%)
Report this review (#216256)
Posted Saturday, May 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Dim
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Isis is a band that needs no introduction, they are at the very tip of the ruthless spearhead that is post metal. Since their breakout album "Oceanic" They've influenced bands from the mammoth instro-metal band Pelican, to the brutal hardcore band The Ocean, to the psychedelic sludge band Minsk, and Isis' legacy grows with Wavering Radiant.

After what many consider their masterpiece Panopticon, the band took a new direction towards a less up tight, and slightly more primal, maybe tribal sound with In the Absence of Truth. I for one was very disappointed with that album, I felt like they were blending their sludgy sound with Tool's very open, yet technical sound, leaving me feeling like it was an unoriginal, and awkward mix. With Wavering Radiant though, I think the group found what they were looking for! Heavier textures, but with a softer, more progressive feel!

The first thing I noticed on this album is that the mixing is incredibly different. They've stepped off the distortion quite a bit so that both guitars can easily be distinguished from one another, which came out absolutely flawless! This however almost completely leaves their sludgy sound completely out in the snow, only coming up during the climaxes of Ghost key, and Hand of the Host. The bass has been turned up quite a bit, giving us the view of Jeff Caxide's incredibly melodic style of bass playing, along with his dreamy texturing achieved with pumped up delay and chorus. Thankfully both of Aaron's style of singing have been turned up significantly , so he;s not just groaning in the background anymore. I should also mention that this album is much more lyrical, more singing, more growling, giving the album more of a sense of direction, despite the lack of the standard pop structures (and thank God for that). Easily the most notable difference in the sound is the keyboards. Not only have they been pumped up considerably, but they add so much more to the music than ever before. Instead of just background chords and soundscapes, Meyer actually uses the keys for making strong melodies and even leads in some songs.

With all that being said, this album isn't ridiculously different from Panopticon or ItAoT, they stick to their roots by starting most of their songs at a slow, brooding pace, and slowly climax into incredibly heavy sections. Hall of the Dead opens the album on a different note, played to chugging guitars, and spacey keys, as the song goes on, you can hear how the song is pretty experimental with the help of Danny Carey, and some cool guitar and keyboard interplay. My favorite song though is Ghost Key For it's sludgy, and crushing climax. That being said their isn't a weak song on the album, though a little different from anything they've done, every song is solid, and plays it's role nearly perfectly as the album progresses.

The only flaws I can think of are the lack of the sludge element that was prominent before, and really added a certain dynamic to the music, and the other being the keyboards use of semi cheesy leads. I cant help but think that some of the keyboards melodies are transcendent of some synth pop leads back in the eighties. Other than that, this is an incredibly good album, no masterpiece, but a very important part for your post metal discography, and IMO, a good direction for the bands maturity.

Report this review (#220282)
Posted Monday, June 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars The album begins strongly enough, with three exceptional tracks, but after that, things just start to sound the same, with noisy instrumentation and angry growling. The growling is tolerable, however, even though it is not something I particularly care for. When there is actually singing, it's not bad at all, but those points are few and far between unfortunately.

"Hall of the Dead" Post metal is wonderful in that the artists that comprise that genre create some of the most imaginative chord progressions and riffs, but it's awful in that those very same artists feel the need to mar their work with Cookie Monster imitations. Regardless, this is an excellent piece of work, if only for the guitar work itself.

"Ghost Key" Both the synthesizer and thick bass sound ghostly in their own way, and set an intriguing foundation for the subtle guitars. Again, however, the growling is a negative point.

"Hand of the Host" Haunting synthesizer and bass begin this track too. The song itself is loaded with excellent riffs and phenomenal, distant vocals. The guitars and the bass steal the show, creating layers of eerily beautiful music (but of course must inexplicably include that constipated retching in the end).

"Wavering Radiant" This is a brief, noise-based segue that consists mainly of atmospheric sounds, but no discernable structure.

"Stone to Wake a Serpent" This eight-and-a-half minute track boasts little variety, either musically or vocally, since it mainly consists of little more than growling and heavy instrumentation. Coherent vocals or really enjoyable music don't happen often here.

"20 Minutes / 40 Years" Low, thunderous bass sets the menacing atmosphere, as various sounds come in here and there. This (and the forthcoming track) are the two heaviest parts of this album, but unlike what is coming next, there are some exceptionally cool guitar parts.

"Threshold of Transformation" By this point, it's just more noisy guitars and growling vocals, which is really unfortunate. This piece is a noisy mess, and had this entire work been in this manner, I would have swiftly written it off as terrible. Even the quieter moments are fairly boring and don't anything to endear me to this album overall.

Report this review (#228743)
Posted Tuesday, July 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Hey, I've got a motto for "Wavering Radiant": 'ISIS - your new TOOL'

Seriously, Aaron and Co were a bit TOOLish on their 2006' album, but this time it's somewhat ridiculous: somtimes you forget who's playing and then wonder what's wrong with Maynard, why does he growl? It seems that genre's pioneers found their product to be half-dead and gone seeking for inspiration somewhere else. On the other hand, if it's half-dead it's also half- ALIVE, and some bands still manage to float in muddy Post-Metal waters without being choked by the waves of creative crisis (or should I say crISIS?). Anyway, it's a fine record, but definitely weird - it's like seeing KING CRIMSON inspired by PINK FLOYD or otherwise. If you like TOOL and never seemed to get the fuzz around ISIS, try this record. On the other hand, if you never liked ISIS it's doubtful you'll love them after "Wavering Radiant" - TOOLish or not, it's not their best album anyway.

Report this review (#230312)
Posted Friday, August 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Wavering Radiant is the fifth full-length studio album by US experimental/ Post metal act Isis. I´ve reviewed Isis studio albums from an end and it´s been quite an interesting journey. While I´m not too much of a fan of the first two albums I acknowledge their importance in the genre. With their third album Panopticon (2004) they got me hooked though. A seminal album in the genre IMO. Their fourth album In The Absence Of Truth (2006) was another good album albeit not as excellent as Panopticon, so I didn´t exactly know what to expect from Wavering Radiant.

After listening to the album for a while I´ve come to the conclusion that this is probably my favorite album by Isis so far. It´s crushingly heavy when it needs to be while maintaining a very melodic edge all the way through. The vocals are both aggressive and clean melodic ones. There are many atmospheric post rock sections in the music and above all this album wins because it has got a great atmosphere and feeling. Compared to Panopticon, this album is not quite as groundbreaking but for me personally there´s more to enjoy about Wavering Radiant than there were about Panopticon. There are some added organ ( I think?) on the album which gives the album a nice organic sound. The melancholic almost shoegaze feeling in the music also adds lots of atmosphere to the sound.

The production on the album is warm and organic. I enjoy the bass heavy production even though my car speakers have a hard time handling the pressure.

Wavering Radiant is such a great album IMO. This album is one of the more interesting releases this year for me. A 4 star rating is well deserved. I like how Isis have developed their sound in the last couple of years and I´m sure we can expect even more positive changes in the future.

Report this review (#251478)
Posted Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
Fio
5 stars WAVERING RADIANT--the pinnacle of Isis' achievement and along with Panopticon, an essential piece of post-metal. Though I feel that the first few tracks are readily accessible and that the album as a whole is a complete masterpiece, this is an album that does require some extended listening to discover all that it has to offer. As a whole, I would describe this album as having a melancholy and yet powerful feel to it, somber and yet triumphant. This is a great album to listen to on a hi-fi stereo due to its great production or with a good pair of headphones. The atmosphere that is typical of Isis is still present, though through great production you can hear more than ever before. The tone of the guitars (especially the bass) is fantastic. The effect heavy bass that has come to be a trademark of Isis is better than ever; it has a quality at times that makes it seem as if it is breathing; it's absolutely stunning. The addition of synths and keys on this album simply adds to the glorious texture of the album. The presence of the keys is classy and appropriate, not overdone or cheesy. The drumming on this album leaves absolutely nothing to be desired; it is leagues above over Isis albums, save for maybe In the Absence of Truth. If the drumming on Panopticon left you uninspired, look no further. Aaron Harris really stepped it up on this album, playing flawless and memorable fills and beats that truly solidify this album. The juxtaposition of parts on this album is extraordinary, they all serve a greater purpose, acting in a thesis, antithesis, synthesis sort of way. They build and they build, and finally explode into stunning climaxes.

The first three tracks, Hall of the Dead, Ghost Key, and Hand of the Host, are three awesome songs that would make a great introduction to Isis. They are very accessible, and by having catchy guitar parts and the breathtaking atmospherics that Isis does so well, they could hook any new Isis listener in an instant. One moment that sticks out for me is a longer part in Hall of the Dead where they build up a wall of trance inducing guitars, somewhat dirty but not completely, and then they come in with a stunning full out guitar rhythm that is simply awe inspiring. The clean vocals on this album are much more present, and Aaron has really improved the quality of his clean vocals. They share an almost equal part with the dirty vocals, which I think is a great move for Isis. The fourth track, Wavering Radiant, is a Tool-esque noise type song that serves as a divider for the album.

The next three songs, though a bit more rough than their predecessors, are stunning in their own right, and as said earlier, these are the tunes that will take a bit more dedication to really understand their greatness. Stone to Wake a Serpent starts with a fantastic side stick drum beat which, as said earlier, is a great move for Harris on drums; it really displays his versatility. Some great tom-work on this song as well, at time it's tribal and hypnotic, and perfectly suited for the album. 20 Minutes/40 Years was the albums single, though I think that Hall of the Dead would have served much better as such. It's spacey intro provides a nice foundation for the song and they take this foundation and build greatly upon it. The riff at about 2:00 has an awesome, grooving chord progression. Hypnotic would be a fine word to describe this song, long sections of ambience induce trance like states of mind. The outro is one of the best parts of this album as well, a stunning climax to the entire song. Is there is one thing that Isis does well, it's end albums on a good note. Threshold of transformation suggests a metamorphosis in its title, and it makes a statement right away by starting with a fury of rhythm and heavy vocals. This leads into an effect heavy vocal part over a powerful chord progression. Using this thesis, antithesis, synthesis format, they go through an atmospheric section to again go into another stunning rhythm part, heavy and laden with changing time signatures, it directs itself into one of the best parts of this album, a groove heavy and bass lead part that is so glorious and powerful that it simply cannot be ignored. Unexpectedly, they sift gears after this part and navigate through a somber section that leads into what is ultimately the bookend and conclusion of the album. If there is any way to end an album, it is in this such way--all the energy built through the entire work is put into this section, and you can feel it deeply, and when it is at its absolute climax, it is pulled away and that breathing bass tone adds an aspect of life to the album--as if it was taking a breath after being finished. Everything on WAVERING RADIANT ensures its place as a masterpiece in my mind, and as with any good piece of progressive music, it only gets better with time.

Report this review (#254401)
Posted Saturday, December 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Isis doesn't waver. After 5 albums of promising but somehow unsatisfactory albums, their 6th shows their will to grow and to succeed in writing the best post-metal album they can. Thumbs up for that.

The album starts excellently. The main riff of Hall of the Dead is both intriguing and dead catchy. Very Tool-alike, which isn't that surprising maybe if you enlist the Tool guitarist to riff along. The vocals alternate between hoarse shouting and basic clean vocals with long held tones. Not the most dynamic vocals around but here at least they work pretty well. They arranged the track with some refreshing organs. It's as good as post metal gets really.

Isis usually has the greatest trouble avoiding quality dips on their albums. Their style sticks too much to its genre formulas to remain engaging enough for entire albums. So my appreciation is usually diminished by a couple of weaker tracks. Ghost Key and Hand of the Host however still pass my scrutiny with ease; especially the tight musicianship is outstanding. Isis provides for a thick sound full of clearly audible chorused bass, beautifully textured guitars and great steady drumming. Sometimes they get a dreamy psychedelic mood going that reminds me of the late 80's shoegazers. Great atmosphere.

By the time Stone To Wake A Serpent makes its appearance, things start sounding too much of the same for me. There are still some shrewd instrumental sections but some of the riffs and vocals don't engage the entrancing vibe that music like this needs. The track overstays its welcome by at least 2 minutes. Also 20 Minutes/40 Years could have worked better if the vocalist had been gifted with a more appealing and confident voice, he has so much trouble staying in tune that he ends up sounding insecure, nasal and slightly whiney. The vocal line itself is quite fairly adequate though. The album ends with Threshold of Transformation, a tremendous wall of post-metal and one of Isis better songs here.

Throughout the years I have kept following Isis in the hope they would overcome their flaws and produce a truly excellent album. They come very close to that here and have certainly crafted their best album. Good enough to warrant a 4 star rating this time.

Report this review (#272370)
Posted Tuesday, March 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Wavering Radiant is another one of those albums that I bought purely on a hunch...well, the early positive reviews might have played in a bit as well.

Do you know the feeling when many different people recommend you to check out a specific band and then you wait until they release a new album only to be completely disappointed? It is only then that you find out that only a specific portion of the band's discography is actually worth checking out. I don't know about you but I've definitely had quite a few of those moments!

Just like many times before, I was constantly reminded to hear Isis but never really bothered until they released a new album in 2009. Once again, I approached the whole matter with high hopes and expectations but this time I'm happy to announce that my approach finally payed off! I don't know the exact statistics regarding these type of events. For me personally, this was a one out of seven chance making it a 14% probability.

Let me begin by proclaiming that this is one highly satisfying album experience. Wavering Radiant may not be the most original recording out there since I'm sure that Isis were heavily influenced by Tool, but considering that it's not often Tool releases an album it's nice to have this Toolish-approach to hold us over while we wait for the real deal. Isis only borrows the best bits from Tool, meaning no filler tracks (I'm a bit on the fence about the title track), cryptic philosophic lyrics or, most importantly,...*drum roll*... constantly reminding us of our ignorance!

The music flows fluently from the start to the very end which is both great and a bit worrying considering the lack of any real stand-out moments. Ghost Key is the most memorable performance thanks to the melodic keyboard lead and the build-up section in the beginning of the track but it's not a stand-out moment per se. Hand Of The Host and Threshold Of Transformation are the album's two longer pieces and although both are pretty solid in their own way they both end up serving as mere atmospheric transitional pieces that glue the album together.

Wavering Radiant can be considered an excellent introduction to this band. Although it might be difficult to accept the fact that Isis sound so Toolish here. Still, expanding on another band's sound has probably never sounded better than this!

***** star songs: Ghost Key (8:31)

**** star songs: Hall Of The Dead (7:41) Hand Of The Host (10:45) Wavering Radiant (1:50) Stone To Wake A Serpent (8:33) 20 Minutes / 40 Years (7:07) Threshold Of Transformation (9:53)

Report this review (#276352)
Posted Sunday, April 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
The Sleepwalker
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Isis is a band that's constantly evolving. Starting out as a rough Sludge Metal band, they've moved towards a different sound. A more open sound perhaps. There still are the heavy riffs that are distinctive for Isis' sound, though they aren't as overwhelming as on an album like Oceanic. Instead, the music tends to focus more on creating a more atmospheric experience with a more progressive approach.

Still, Isis' sound is dominated by heavy guitars and pretty distinctive sounding drums. Also, the bass is a very important part of Isis' sound, contributing a lot to the heavy and thick sound that the band creates. Another important factor to the new Isis' sound are the very present keyboards, that produce some brooding atmosphere. Despite the album being very good overall, it tends to drag a bit. The music never quite reaches the heights of an album like for example Oceanic and while most of the songs contain some climaxes, those often don't sound all too dynamic and passionate as I suppose they could have been. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the music on the album is very enjoyable and songs like "Hall Of The Dead", "Ghost Key" and "Threshold Of Transformation" are just great.

Wavering Radiant doesn't quite reach the heights of some other Isis releases, but is a good album nevertheless. Therefore, three stars suit it very well I think. If you enjoy atmospheric yet heavy Post-Metal, you probably will enjoy this album.

Report this review (#280214)
Posted Sunday, May 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
Evolutionary Sleeper
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars With the release of this album in 2009, Isis takes the final step into maturity as a band. Wavering Radiant is a monster of an album that takes its sludge elements and tones them down a bit, but is no less crushing and beautiful for it. This is an album that blew me away from the first listen with its dark and haunting atmosphere. The thing I first noticed was the much improved production from their previous album, In the Absence of Truth. The mixing on this album is absolutely perfect and gives the overall tone of the music a much more organic feel, Joe Barresi did an amazing job with it. Another thing I noticed were the much improved vocals of Aaron Turner. He admittedly is not a great singer but I felt his vocals were really appropriate to the mood of the music and made it an overall more enjoyable experience. Great as the vocals were for me, Jeff Caxide's bass playing was definitely the highlight of the album. Jeff's versatile and skillful playing turns the bass into a living, breathing creature that weaves in and out in the background waiting to strike. These factors, along with the always great guitar playing and the much improved keys make it an album not to be missed by metal fans.

Hall of the Dead opens with a fantastic riff that carries through the first couple of minutes while the keys create a dark atmosphere in the background. Aaron Turner's vintage growls come in before a beautiful middle section juxtaposes the heaviness and Turner's growls change from harsh to melodic, a truly haunting tune.

Ghost Key however, takes "haunting" to a whole new level. The bass and keys on this track takes you to an journey through the dark side of your mind. Turner's vocals on this song are especially haunting, where he declares: "And there upon the ground, the remnants of our struggle", a truly spine-tingling experience.

Hand of the Host features a more crushing atmosphere than the previous two songs with the heavy breathing of the bass and monster riffs played by the guitars, one of the heaviest songs on the album.

Wavering Radiant is a short interlude between the first and second half of the album. It is pretty much an ambient track that has some sort moans from some ghastly being in the background. Not much of a track, but I don't feel it takes away from anything.

Stone to Wake a Serpent features their trademark loud, soft, loud, sound, which makes it a little less cohesive than the other tracks which pretty much avoid this, but the drumming on this track is really solid (some tabla even makes an appearance at one point) and the eerie keys in the background make for another great mood.

20Minutes/40 Years creeps up on you at the start and then explodes in your face. I particularly love the pace of this track, it stays pretty slow and super heavy throughout.

Threshold of Transformation was the one track it took me a while to warm up too, but I have come to love this track as well. Threshold is by far the heaviest track on the album with its booming bass and devastating guitars. The drumming here is the best out of any track on the album and the evocative singing beckons making one feel a sense on longing and nostalgia. It ends with the bass breathing heavy sighs and the guitars playing a quiet tune, calling out to you with their sorrowful cry.

This is definitely Isis's best and most mature work to date, and sadly, their last. This album is a wonderful addition to any prog collection. This masterpiece absolutely sucks the listener in doesn't let go, it's a completely immersive experience and one not to be missed and is best listened to cranked up to eleven.

Report this review (#282705)
Posted Wednesday, May 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Wavering Radiant' - Isis (8/10)

I remember the day I heard Isis broke up. A fairly overcast day by all accounts, and I was left hating myself for never getting tickets to the last show the post-metal giants would ever play in Vancouver. One of the sadder music moments in 2010 to be sure, but they can't be said to have left the scene without one last great album. While not my favourite of the works Aaron Turner and company have crafted over the course of their career together, 'Wavering Radiant' concludes the Isis saga with a dark and brooding piece of metal no less worthy a contribution to their catalogue than any other.

Musical comparisons to the band Tool are certainly no stretch of the imagination; it feels as if through their contact, Isis has assimilated part of that band's bass-heavy sound and rhythmic builds into their own formula. While I might not like Tool, these new elements do add a dark feeling to the music that really works. The tracks here are generally drawn out with sludgy riffs, psychedelic ambiance and Turner's distinctive baritone. The music is well- played, but moreso in the great choice of timbres as opposed to any flamboyant technical playing, of which there is none here. Instead, Isis opts for an ironically mellow approach to their metal; while there may be growls and heavy riffs here, the sound never feels out of control. This high sense of calibration and intention throughout the songwriting makes the heavier moments feel a bit boring. Isis' strength here however lies in the more atmospheric segments of the music, which are done absolutely masterfully here.

The lighter, more post-rock oriented moments of 'Wavering Radiant' turn out incredibly; mixed generously with psychedelic effects and experimentation with noise effects. On top of this, Aaron Turner's clean vocals work perfectly for this style of music, equally as brooding and as downtuned as the guitars themselves. The sludgier sections of the album are a bit more hit-or-miss, especially towards the second half of the record. While the first three tracks of A-class material, the interlude title track onwards can be a bit more of a bumpy ride, resulting in a closing track ('Threshold of Transformation') that feels like it simply peters out, rather than delivering a real climax to the music.

A great album overall, although it does feel as if Isis has left us with a would-be masterpiece; one that could have easily become a classic with a few improvements and extra considerations put into the sound.

Rest in peace, Isis.

Report this review (#413950)
Posted Thursday, March 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars For a long time ive always thought this band to be very overated, as the genre of Post Metal, wasnt really my strong point, bands like Cult of Luna i found hard to get into, that is of course until i heard WAVERING RADIANT, the final release from this band. Where to start, i personaly think this album is a wee gem, very atmospheric yet you cant help but bang your head to it, so somple yet quite complex in nature, for example the second i heard the EPIC closing few minutes of opener HALL OF THE DEAD, i was floored, and this attitude continues throughout this album, the beautiful instrumental intro of GHOST KEY as well as the middle section of the same song is just beautiful, it can also get quite agressive and heavy which is also cool, the title track as well with its electronic ambience and the epic closer THRESHOLD OF TRANSFORMATION, all in all this is a great release that im sure is able to keep ISIS's legacy going for quite some time;

Hall Of The Dead - 10/10 Ghost Key - 9/10 Hand Of The Host - 8/10 Wavering Radiant - 8/10 Stone To Wake A Serpent - 8/10 20 Minutes / 40 Years - 9/10 Threshold of Transformation - 10/10

CONCLUSION; A great and worthy addition to any fan of Isis's collection.

Report this review (#427616)
Posted Monday, April 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
JJLehto
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Isis may be the very definition of a progressive rock band.

Starting with their first EP, Isis has maintained their core sound, (sludge) but on each subsequent EP and album have refined the sound, tuning this and changing that. Not a progressive band that jumped all over the place with wild leaps and experimenting, but truly progressing, slowly and surely up the mountain until finally reaching the summit, with this album, their magnum opus.

Wavering Radiant showcases their classic sound, (moreso than their last album) but this is not a throwback. Instead it features more of a soundscape feel than wall of sound. The extensive use of keyboard on this album adds a perfect touch. It plays a filler role, and is used with honest perfection.

Balance is the key to this album, balance in each individual song, the overall album and flow. Wavering Radiant's overall journey takes you up a hill, then over the top and down into a valley, up another hill over the top and ends gently rolling to a place like where we started.

The aggressive and heavy/mellow and ambient musical dynamic is as present as ever, though both sections have more nuance than ever and are soundscape influenced. The chilling sometimes space rock keyboard backdrops both, and Turners vocals are split evenly between his harsh, tortured gasps and melodic clean singing.

Notice I didn't mention any songs, which was the case with most of my Isis reviews. That's because Isis has always been greater than the sum of its parts. Each song by itself is a part of the grand clock, and this album is perhaps the best example. Wavering Radiant may actually have the most diverse song experience on any Isis album, but also displays the best overall experience. Taking the album as a whole, single experience is far more rewarding than every song on its own.

While "In the Absence of Truth" grew on me to become my favorite personally, "Wavering Radiant" is the best actual album Isis put out, their crowning achievement. Not a single bad moment on the whole album, filled with emotion and deep planning, this is cerebral metal and an absolute masterpiece.

Five Stars

Isis may also have felt they reached the pinnacle with this album, as they decided to retire after the subsequent tour, choosing to go out on top and not fading painfully into an overdue retirement. In the typical, extremely well thought out fashion, Isis played their final show where they played their first one, and ended it with the song "The Beginning of the End" appropriate on many levels.

Just to make sure, without any doubt, Isis was bowing out Turner took a stuffed bear that had been on stage with them since their very early years, threw it into the crowd, and walked off stage.

Report this review (#634845)
Posted Thursday, February 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Having knocked it out of the park with Oceanic and Panopticon, Isis can afford to experiment with their style a bit. Wavering Radiant doesn't radically overturn the Isis sound, but it does offer up more space here and there for the band to work through the quieter side of their sound, to the point where at stages this sounds like a gentle Explosions In the Sky release here and there. As far as their distinctive blend of post-rock and sludge metal goes, it's not going to sell you on it if you didn't dig their top-tier releases, but if you've already found that you like this particular sonic territory it's a reasonable expansion of it.
Report this review (#1589675)
Posted Friday, July 22, 2016 | Review Permalink
TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
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.

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Posted Saturday, September 22, 2018 | Review Permalink

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