In The Absence Of Truth
posted on 10/2006 By:
If ever there was a band unlikely to start a trend, it was ISIS circa five years ago. Though not as bludgeoning or sludge-slinging as early output like The Red Sea and Mosquito Control, ISIS’s breakthrough Celestial LP was no easy listen. Bizarrely though, it and follow-up Oceanic played a huge role in spawning the current influx of spaced-out doom metal. One album later, and ISIS is…touring with Tool? THAT ISIS? THAT Tool? Get the fuck outta here. Though their paradoxical ascent to popularity is disorienting and somewhat grating for the band’s older fans, ISIS has certainly done an impressive job of refusing to stay put stylistically. Like their obvious forbearers Neurosis, ISIS have altered and refined their sound significantly with each successive album. In The Absence of Truth is no exception; this disc sees Aaron Turner and company push further into the progressive outlands than ever before, resulting in an album that compares respectably, if maybe not favorably, with the rest of their catalogue.
Much has been made amongst the metal community of ISIS’s aforementioned jaunt with Tool, and the friendship between the two bands likely has something to do with the latter act’s noticeable influence on In The Absence of Truth. Drummer Aaron Harris’s flowing, circular tom grooves have more than a little of Danny Carrey’s smooth complexity in them, and the ISIS’s increased propensity for exacting production and elaborate artificial sound manipulation reflect both the band’s greater budget and their increasingly less metallic nature.
These elements will undoubtedly put off those who insist that ISIS saw their best days before Oceanic and should never have ventured away from their droning roots. This criticism seems to fizzle in the face of the band’s confident, poised delivery; Aaron Turner has managed to so refine his considerable skill in arrangement that the lacey prog elements integrate seamlessly with ISIS’s existing blend of doom and atmospheric post-rock. “Holy Tears” is an excellent example—the track opens with Turner and second guitarist Mike Gallagher wailing away in true suffocating, fuzzed-out Celestial form before leaping nimbly into a contemplative, watery jam that features as much synth lead as it does guitar melody. Through it all, Aaron Turner hollers his whale-song melodies like he’s standing at the bottom of some kind of gloomy post-rock well. Though the man will likely never write so much as a single vocal hook, his effects-laden vox provide backbone and direction for music that is sometimes too busy and esoteric to fully maintain momentum. His harsh vocals appear under extreme sonic duress at times, but they’re (as one would expect) even less present than on past releases.
Even those who dislike the direction that ISIS has taken will find it hard to fault them on execution on The Absence of Truth. These veterans sound as comfortable and in control of their sound as they ever have, and they’ve taken the steps required to expand upon the evocative cinematic scope they have established over their past two releases. The songs are varied and dynamic—the tense build and crescendo of “Wrist of Kings,” the galloping cinematics of “Dulcinea,” Firdous E Bareen”’s exploratory electronica—but compose a distinct sonic landscape when taken as a whole. This is perhaps the most at home on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label that ISIS has ever sounded; with each release they step further from conventional genre boundaries, and In The Absence of Truth is no exception. ISIS’s strength has always been the willingness to experiment, and the adventurous nature of this album is ultimately what allows it to succeed--though it does not outdo its predecessors. A solid addition to a catalogue full of strong releases for these Boston boys.
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