If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then how many is a song worth? The answer would need to be relative of the song at hand, of course, but for a band like Isis that’s so consistently able to create sonic landscapes with the tools of their crafts, one could argue that one of the band’s tracks holds a higher verbal value than any picture could ever hope to attain.
With Wavering Radiant, their most recent output, Isis has indeed offered their most refined release to date, though perhaps not their most breathtaking. It’s clear the band has already crafted their niche, and so this time out, they’re able to spend more times exploring and expanding it. The band’s trademark sound, which has gone on to clearly influence work from heralded acts like Dredg, Pelican, and others, is here in a big way. “Ghost Key,” for example, is able to immediately engulf the listener into the created soundscape, benefiting largely from some very crisp-but-smooth bass leads that really come to the forefront amidst the extremely tight instrumentals. Of course, with a sound that relies largely on the intermingling of musical instruments, the drum patterns are the driving force of any given song’s structure, in a bigger way here than a track centred around big guitar riffs or lyrical narratives.
While the band does employ vocals regularly throughout the record, it’s the instrumental interplay that drives each individual Isis track. Throughout, the band takes simple and straightforward melodies from either the bass guitar or crisp, clean, slightly-tremolo tinged electrics and uses dynamics to their utmost potential to build-up and level off the tracks. The finest example of this ambient, inviting aural environment is “20 Minutes/40 Years,” the album’s clear cut standout with the shimmering guitars adding the perfect accent to some terrific interplay. The vocals bring the most value to an individual track in “Threshold Of Transformation,” where they’re perhaps most on-par with the other instruments in the creation of the mood.
The nature of the band’s music demands a patient and attentive listener, though the investment of time pays off in a very special musical journey. Employing the bits of post rock and Tool-esque progressive rock that they’ve turned into their trademark, Isis has offered up a rather impressive record that really invites the listener in. If each track is worth 1,000 words, then I’ve not even scratched the surface of how impactful this record is in these few hundred. This is one that really deserves some post-review plays. [ END ]
01. Hall of the Dead
02. Ghost Key
03. Hand of the Host
04. Wavering Radiant
05. Stone to Wake a Serpent
06. 20 Minutes / 40 Years
07. Threshold of Transformation
Run Time: 54:05
Release Date: 04.21.2009