Isis – Wavering Radiant

Release Date: May 5, 2009
Reviewed by Evelyn Miska

Isis’ vocalist, Aaron Turner, once went on record saying that he didn’t want to spoon-feed listeners music, and instead wanted to create a sense of mystery. Unlike other artists or bands that have claimed to try the same thing, Isis achieves this shroud. This is not music that is easily swallowed and digested. This is music that takes time to wrap one’s head around, and it deserves that time. Critics have tried to assign a label of some sort to Isis’ music and most attempts have failed. The closest most have come classifying the band is as post-rock, but this is too neat a categorization. What makes Isis so good is the amalgamation of genres that is found in their music. The aren’t any one particular sound and the music keeps evolving, making it almost impossible to put Isis into any one category.

“Hall Of The Dead” begins with an intensity frequently found in Isis songs. The heavy guitar chords that somehow are capable of being melodic, not just noise, get things moving right away. Turner’s vocals, which consist mostly of that low, unintelligible growl commonly found on metal tracks, segues into a completely different sound as the track nears the two minute mark. The song then progresses into the slow build combining metal, rock and ambient music that ebbs and flows as the song moves forward.

“Ghost Key” begins benignly enough but evolves into a harder sound. Like most of the songs on the album, the track is a long one, coming in over eight minutes, however, the band has the ability to make that time seem much shorter because of the complexity inherent in their music. The album’s title track is made somewhat unique by being the shortest song on the album and less than two minutes long. Additionally, the track has a more ambient approach than most of the others and, in some ways works as the apex of the album.

From “Wavering Radiant” to the end of the album, the songs seem to follow the opposite pattern as on the first half. “Stone To Wake A Serpent” begins this slow descent and mostly maintains the intensity that had been built up on the first half of the album. “20 Minutes-40 Years” continues the descent and “Threshold of Transformation” wraps up things by gradually slowing down and coming to rest in a sort of calm. Like most Isis albums, this isn’t a collection where a song can be listened to here and there. Where Isis works best is when the entire album is enjoyed in a sitting, this isn’t a snack, it’s a feast to be slowly savored.

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