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CELESTIAL

Isis

Experimental/Post Metal


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Isis Celestial album cover
3.43 | 88 ratings | 8 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential


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Studio Album, released in 2000

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. SGNL>01 (0:55)
2. Celestial (The Tower) (9:42)
3. Glisten (6:34)
4. Swarm Reigns (Down) (6:01)
5. SGNL>02 (0:51)
6. Deconstructing Towers (7:30)
7. SGNL>03 (0:34)
8. Collapse and Crush (5:55)
9. C.F.T. (New Circuitry and Continued Evolution) (5:42)
10. Gentle Time (7:02)
11. SGNL>04 (End Transmission) (1:06)

Total Time: 51:52

Line-up / Musicians

- Aaron Turner / guitar, vocals
- Mike Gallagher / guitar
- Bryant Clifford Meyer / electronics, guitar, vocals (10)
- Jeff Caxide / bass
- Aaron Harris / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Aaron Turner

CD Escape Artist Records ‎- EA 7.0 (2000, US)
CD Ipecac Recordings ‎- IPC145 (2013, US) Remastered by Chris Common with new cover art

Thanks to useful_idiot for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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ISIS Celestial ratings distribution


3.43
(88 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(14%)
14%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(34%)
34%
Good, but non-essential (38%)
38%
Collectors/fans only (12%)
12%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

ISIS Celestial reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Trickster F.
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The epitome of heaviness.

When asked about their opinion of what the heaviest music sounds like, most people will describe a fast, brutal group with blast beats and shrieking vocals that tries to be as loud and noisy as possible. Isis and their album titled Celestial show us a different way to be heavy - this way is not totally new actually, as it has been being developed for decades by various innovative Doom, Stoner and Sludge Metal groups, some of them, especially Neurosis and The Melvins must have influenced the Isis's sound somehow.

I will try to describe the group's sound as accurately as I can, although it is, of course, a good idea to hear it on your own to make the right conclusions. Celestial, in particular, can be described as something immensely huge, massive, menacing that crushes and destroys everything on its way to... Wherever it goes, it definitely does have a direction though! The way the vocals are used can be compared to Neurosis as well: the vocals are monotonous and do not, in any way, create the centre of the music. When they are absent you don't miss them and when they appear the music doesn't take much of a turn. You could say that the vocals are just another tool - an instrument in the arsenal of Isis. They are always used fittingly with the music and confirm its destructive message successfully. The album consists of many lengthy compositions, as well as short tracks that are not musical but have different sounds and effects to help get the message across. The whole album is supposed to be concept based around the destruction of a tower and is continued on the following EP SGNL>05. Before I heard this information, Celestial, just like the other Isis albums awoke a different association in me: drowning in a swamp! I'll let you in a little secret(okay, this is embarassing!): I have found my own way of listening to Isis's music. First of all, I throw the headphones away and instead enter a room, close all the doors, turn off the lights. Afterwards, I turn on the music as loud as possible and on top of it all... Yes, you've guessed it, I lie down on the floor and absorb the group's powerful, massive attack!

The group's trademark sound which has become very popular for is present throughout this record. There are either slow or mid-paced riffs, furious low screams that shout phrases that can be considered quite interesting after further investigation, "drowning" drums and occassional basslines that are used sparingly. Electronics are also used in a few occassions and fortunately they don't create that awkward feeling that is often awaken in us when we hear them used in rock music in a senseless, random way. The album is an intense, atmospheric listen, and practically any song except the SGNLs can be considered a highlight. I especially appreciate the sophisticated C.F.T. (New Circuitry and Continued Evolution) with its mellow, quiet guitar melodies, the experimental Deconstructing Towers, which have less vocals than the other tracks.

In conclusion, whilst Celestial does not achieve the title of a masterpiece in my eyes(that's what I would call Panopticon!), no Isis fan should ignore buying this album! The more beautiful side of the group will be better developed in the next full-length releases - Oceanic and the above-mentioned Panopticon, however, the scent of the musicians' Post-Rock influence can be felt here as well. A great release, however, if you are still unfamiliar with the group, I urge you to start with Panopticon - to witness Isis at their best. After that it is a wise choice to explore their catalogue in reversed chronological order, not missing out any EP's either.

Highly recommended!

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Celestial is the debut album from post metal band Isis. Isis is a band I have heard and read a lot about in the recent years and a couple of years ago I borrowed Isis third album Panopticon from 2004. I could hear a lot of potential on that album, but after listening to Panopticon for a while I found that it didnīt really suit my taste. After seing that Isis is included on Prog Archives I have decided to start from an end and review all Isis albums and hopefully be positively surprised and ignite a new interest in the band.

The music on Celestial is generally slow to mid-tempo post metal with vocals. The music can seem a bit repetitive but itīs a characteristic feature in post metal and post rock. The riffs are very heavy and most of them are pretty great. Most of the songs have chrushingly heavy parts and slow minimalistic acoustic parts. C.F.T. (New Circuitry and Continued Evolution) is a bit different though as it is a post rock song without the heavy parts. The inclusion of this song is great for the diversity of the album. Deconstructing Towers is a slow dragging instrumental track that I could have done without while songs like Celestial (The Tower), Glisten, Swarm Reigns (Down) and especially Collapse and Crush are great post metal songs. There is a depressive and at times angry mood on the album and the shouting vocals emphasise that mood perfectly.

The musicianship is good and one of the things I enjoy the most is the drumming during the slow acoustic parts. Itīs very heavy but also very inventive.

The production is a bit too low-fi for my taste when Isis play their acoustic parts but all in all the production is good. A larger than life production would have done the trick for me though.

My conclusion is that Celestial is a very good album in the post metal genre. Iīm not particularly a fan of this genre, but I do enjoy this album as well as other albums in that style from bands like Neurosis and Omega Massif. The music is a bit too repetitive to really suit my taste but Iīll rate Celestial 3 stars as it is one of the better post metal albums I have heard so far. There are some really heavy stuff on this album that I enjoy very much.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
3 stars Isis is one of the few post-Neurosis bands that captured my attention. Not being a bit fan of post-metal and post-rock in general, Isis managed to create some albums that, while not highly original, are still excellently written, betraying a knack for songwriting that most bands in this field can only dream of.

The main purpose of this music is to be heavy, monolithic even. And in order to make the heaviness sound as heavy as possible, post-rock/metal always resorts to crescendos and endless quite/loud dynamics. Isis have the rare gift to be both adept at crushingly heavy doom rock and meaningful soff noodling. On further albums they would get even better at the soft parts.

Not every track on this album is equally inspired. Especially Celestial (The Tower), the softer C.F.T. and the epic Gentle Time are worth checking out. The remainder of the songs are competent but for fans of the style. Celestial is a good debut from one of the many Neurosis-inspired 00's bands. Mostly it makes for an appealing but not for what I would call a requiered listen.Unless you're a post-metal fan of course.

Review by sleeper
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars All bands have to start somewhere and in terms of recorded music this is where Isis began. Celestial provides a slice of Post Metal that is undeniably heavily infuesed with the sludgy, industrial feel of Neurosis, the progenetors of the Post Metal scene. But, to describe them as simply a Neurosis clone would be doing Isis quite the disservice as they are already adding something of their selves to the style with a higher level of detail in the quiter moments as well as a far broader pallette of sounds in the programming and samples department to flesh out the sound.

However, heaviness is quite definitely the name of the game with big, chugging, mid-tempo riffs from Aaron Turner and Mark Gallagher supported by Jeff Caxides pulsing bass lines dominating the album. Sadly though, this is part of Celestials undoing as the riffs are too repetative, lack for variation and outright development to truly lift the level of this album to something great. I cant help find the switches from the wall of sound to the calmer moments and back again to be largely clunky in feel and these problems all add up to kill the atmosphere of the album before its had a real chance to get a hold of the listener. All of these problems can be put down to the fact that they are a new band on this album and as such havnt had a chance to develop their skills in the art of composition, something they will rectify in the years to come. Mind you, its not all bad, not by a long shot. Celestial (The Tower), Swarm Reigns (Down) and Gentle Time are 3 excellent tracks. Swarm Reigns (Down) shows this Neurosis inspired style of Post Metal at its best, whilst Gentle Times points to things to come with an allecraty that is quite surprising. And then there's the title track, Clestial (The Tower). This magnificent piece of work shows the band at its best and the loose structure has made for ample oppurtunity for improvisation in their live shows (witness the 17 minute version the live album Live II), all of which has meant that this track has a remained a fan favourite and a staple of their live act for 10 years now.

An interesting debut but in the end it pales into comparison with what they wil be able to do on future releases. Celestial also marks the end of an era where Neurosis where the dominant force in Post Metal because from the bands next release, Oceanic, Isis will take that mantel. 2.5 stars, good but nothing special from a band capable of far more.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars I have come to the conclusion that Isis is one of my favorite Post Metal bands. I am usually not a fan of the extreme metal sound, and one of the reasons is the screaming or growling vocals. Because of this, I don't know why I love Isis so much, but my suspicion lies in the fact that their music is so heavy and solid, yet progressive and influential at the same time. They were never afraid to explore other areas and stretch the boundaries of the sound.

When Isis formed in Boston in 1997, the members had mostly been involved with other bands, yet were unhappy with the sound they were getting from those bands. There first 2 recordings were EPs and they didn't released their first full length album until 2000, and that album was a bone crushing, head smashing sludge metal and post metal extravaganza. Even though the band didn't really seriously start exploring how other genres could be incorporated into their music until their next full length album, there is still a lot of new territory they explored in 'Celestial'.

Through this album, there are 4 short tracks interspersed through the longer tracks that act as electronic interludes that break up the extreme sound this first album has. For the most part, that is the reprieve you get as each harsh track plays through. Screaming vocals are not my bag usually, though there are a few of the best extreme bands that I like anyway because the quality of their music more than makes up for it. But, I really can't see how any other vocal would fit with this music. It is loud and mostly unrelenting. Plus there is the fact that the music, even at this early stage, pushes the boundaries. A great example is in the first full length track 'Celestial (The Tower)' The first 6 minutes is 100% sludge rock with lots of hard hitting noise and the last 4 minutes change gear and present a post-rock style section where intensity builds off of a drop of volume, something you wouldn't expect in a typical sudge-fest. Then there is the completely instrumental track 'Deconstructing Towers' that uses feedback as part of the main feature of the track as it screams out at short intervals and then gets used later in an improvised way. As the track cools down, strummed acoustic chords usher out the squeals. There is also the pensive, yet buzzsaw style of 'C.F.T. (New Circuitry and Continued Evolution)' that tends to bore its way into your psyche and utilizes subdued vocals and electronic effects to prove that these guys were out to be something new and different.

The 'melt your mind' mentality of this music is based around a concept for this album, the building up of towers, the abandonment, the decay and finally the destruction of them. There is a mother-figure in the concept in the guise of the main control tower. It all deals with the way technology takes away our privacy. This is quite a current issue even though this album was released in 2000. We this as being even more of a problem in these days then it was back in those days.

This album is not as excellent as later albums would be, but it is still one that is enjoyable in it's own way, mostly because it has a much rawer feel, yet explores the repetition and development of themes in music much in the same way Swans did in their early days, but Isis takes it much further and that is what makes their music more appealing. The repetition is there, but development is going on as the track continues, and sometimes you end off a track in a completely different manner as what you started. This music is not for everyone, I understand that, but you can't deny that it expands borders in the metal categories. If you love your music loud, daring, epic and somewhat experimental, then this is for you, however, the later albums are even better.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars No, not the Middle East terrorist group or the Egyptian Goddess. This ISIS began creating its unique take on the earlier sludge metal sounds of Neurosis and Godflesh from the very start of its formation in 1997 and quickly released two EPs that showed considerable progress as well as a lengthy tour that allowed the band to hone its chops and introduce its potential to a wider audience but it wasn't until the debut of the band's first full-length album CELESTIAL that ISIS really started to catch the attention of the mainstream metal world internationally which resulted in the band actually touring with Neurosis and in many ways picking up the baton of the atmospheric sludge metal world as Neurosis itself was distancing itself from the earlier heaviness and drifting more into the atmospheric realms. On CELESTIAL, ISIS struck the perfect balance of the heavy hardcore influence sludge riffery with the electronic infused atmospheres that resulted in a totally unique post-metal experience.

Thematically the band continued its critique of power structures and deals with the erosion of privacy through technological advances. The album had depicted several different versions of cover art with the newer versions displaying towers that are designed to spy on our every move and perhaps even our very thoughts. These themes would remain a staple of the band's explorations throughout its career until its ultimate demise in 2010. Following in the footsteps of Neurosis, ISIS released a sister EP titled "SGNL>5" the following year and was designed to be a companion piece to CELESTIAL. The works were an extension of the tracks on this album taken from various sessions and offer more variations in the themes and dynamics. The two releases have been released together as a deluxe version of CELESTIAL as well.

CELESTIAL is where all the promises of the past finally hook up to create the unique heady mix of surreal post-metal and bombastic sludge metal that ISIS made their own and in the process quickly launched themselves into the limelight as the best of the sludge scene. Having been the closest album to the early years that displayed a violent attack of hardcore distortion and guitar attacks, CELESTIAL is an interesting mix of bombastic guitar heft along with a much more developed display of electronic wizardry that sprawls out into continuous atmospheric streams of consciousness. Pretty much everything about ISIS took a leap of sophistication on CELESTIAL. The compositions are much more intricate with seemingly repetitive riffs decorated with subtle variations that seem to repeat four times before adding new elements. The band's classic lineup was completed as Bryant Clifford Meyer replaced Jay Randall on electronics.

With a running time of 52 minutes, CELESTIAL debuted an epic run of tracks that slowly meander down post-metal alley. Lengthened and infused with creative call and response effects of guitar noise and electronics, this album perfectly displayed the fertile possibilities of fusing hardcore metal with electronic ambient effects. The music was also designed to display the themes. A perfect example is the guitar stomping bombast heard in "Deconstructing Towers" while a radiant whizzing of electronic chaos whizzes by in the background until the destruction is complete. In many ways, ISIS merged the heavy punk infused hardcore sounds with the repetitive surrealism of 70s Krautrock. The slow ratcheting up of subtle differences is right out of the A.R. & Machines playbook, Achim Reichel's best known project.

With CELESTIAL, this Boston band essentially broke into the big boy's club and created some essential metal listening experiences. Not by crafting melodic tracks that offered sing-along sessions but rather but taking a completely different approach. ISIS went for the complete experience route which means that the album is designed to consume as a whole run. Yes, it's a lengthy commitment but not overly so. It really does unleash its magic with a few attentive listens that aren't hurried. Comparisons to other metal bands won't do either. CELESTIAL is essentially a post-rock album dressed up in metal attire.

While the cyclical loops and sprawling compositions are right out of the post-rock playbook, the themes and caustic bombast of guitars, bass and drums in tandem keep the band firmly placed in metal territory. CELESTIAL may have been a warm up for the more lauded "Oceanic" and "Panopticon," however this album has a charm all its own and in many ways i prefer this album to the following examples of fan favorites. CELESTIAL climbs another rung of the post-metal ladder for ISIS and accepted on its own merits is a wonderfully dynamic musical experience that remains hypnotically seductive for the entire run despite bouts of extreme metal brutality and harsh noisy distortion lurking around every corner. The production is one of the key factors that segregates all the corresponding sounds into the proper roles. In short CELESTIAL is an amazing achievement of modern metal at its finest.

4.5 rounded down

Latest members reviews

4 stars Chugga-chugga-chugga; the perfect way to sum up Isis's unique interpretation of raw power. I've not heard Isis's other albums yet so cannot comment on their career as a whole but this album appealed to me from the very start. Through the wonders of Spotify I discovered the track Celestial (The ... (read more)

Report this review (#259348) | Posted by Citizen Erased | Monday, January 4, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars After their second ep "Red Sea", which was released in 1999, Isis write the material for their first studio album, "Celestial". Jay Randall who had replaced Chris Mereschuk leaves the band. Cliff Meyer will come to fill this space and Cast Iron Hike's guitarist will also join. The line-up hasn ... (read more)

Report this review (#101765) | Posted by sularetal | Wednesday, December 6, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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