Sunday, 3 May 2009

Isis - Wavering Radiant

Here’s one huge slab of force chiselled into seven tracks and released on CD and a (hallelujah!) 2LP vinyl edition, from a band that have been honing their work over the last twelve years to eventually arrive at this majestic collision of guitars, electronics and dynamics. It’s an epic vista, bold and brooding, concentrated and totally focused, drawing you in and surrounding you in its all-encompassing intensity. Isis take no prisoners, brook no dissent; they are powerful, driven and atmospheric, whilst their sound relies on bold drumming and urgent guitars... and jarring, guttural vocals.

That grating vocal style, prevalent also on the Space Mirrors disc recently reviewed here, is, I’ll concede, in keeping with the overarching, bellicose, style of this album so it’s rather churlish, in a way, to pick it out as the weak-link in an album that demands full-volume playing and delivers its strengths in spades. And in fact, two or three listens in and Aaron Turner’s rasping mode actually becomes more listenable than his more ‘progressive rock’ sounding singing voice and fits into the total drive of the album.

But Wavering Radiant is less about the vocals, producer Joe Barresi (who enjoys credits with Queens of the Stone Age amongst his notable achievements) has set these fairly low in the mix in any case, and more about the competing textures employed in the overall sound. ‘Hall of the Dead’ opens in a dark, sinister, mode that sets up the uneasy environment in which this work operates. ‘Stone to Wake a Serpent’ escalates from lightly-played guitars and electronics to harsh theatrics across its eight and a half minutes, echoing the guitars from ‘Hall of the Dead’. Everything about this record is of epic, granite, construction; it’s a tense work, tightly sprung; exploding out of its coil and then retreating back into itself again ready for the next wave of sonic assault. Isis produce a range in their work that is well-crafted and atmospheric and yet subservient to their original intentions of battering, extended riffs; all power to them.

Isis Website

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