Sunday, May 24, 2009

Isis: Wavering Radiant

Artist: Isis
Album: Wavering Radiant
Date Released: April 21, 2009
Genre: post-metal, alternative metal
Rating: 8.8

Along with Neurosis, California's Isis have firmly established themselves as giants of the post-metal genre. With such albums under their belts as Oceanic (2002) and In the Absence of Truth (2006), Isis is a band that could easily settle and regress into producing formulaic records while striving for greater commercial appeal. But as Wavering Radiant indicates, these guys have no interest in taking the easy route to a comfortable career.

True to the spirit of the post-metal genre, Isis continues to experiment with song structure, tone and the complex interplay between melody and instrumentation; the strength and beauty of each track on Wavering Radiant is teasingly revealed with great care and subtlety.

Indeed, "care" and "subtlety" are not words that are traditionally associated with heavy music -- but that's what makes the post-metal genre so interesting and inherently listenable. All the metal cliches are stripped away in favor of a minimalistic and subdued approach, but never at the expense of heaviness and aggression. Likewise, Wavering Radiant's inspirational touches color the tracks in a non-obvious way; its songs merely hint at the influences of such bands as Animals era Pink Floyd, post-metal brothers Neurosis and Jesu, Aereogramme, and Tool (whose Adam Jones makes a guest appearance).

The album's mood is typically bleak, but the punchy melodies and shimmering production provide a dynamism that lifts the album beyond the usual grey tones. Aaaron Turner's vocals have never sounded more severe and ferocious, and the interplay between the drums, bass and rhythm guitars are a stunning stand-out.

Wavering Radiant is an album that re-invents itself with each passing listen. It will appeal to metal die-hards as much as it will to those with proggish and post-rock sensibilities. Truly one of the best albums of 2009.

Reviewed by George Dvorsky.

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