Every now and then, a gentle nudge towards the grim precipice of all-out disruption is a welcome thing. When it’s an insidious little virus that entirely derails your live music plans for a year (or more), it’s an utter pain in the ass; but when it’s a new album from a fresh up-and-comer in the black metal scene, the looming walls of shifting paradigms is a balm for the cabin-fevered soul. Isolert, from Greece, is the case in point, with their new, appropriately titled, World in Ruins. And what sets it apart is that the unexpected element they bring is so damn simple: not embracing new technologies, nor exotic instruments, nor even alternative compositional methods – just plain, straightforward virulence on a scale I don’t usually associate with the Hellenistic black metal scene.
There’s none of Rotting Christ’s chug-meets-melody, nothing resembling Astarte’s symphonics or Varathron’s bombast, very little of Acherontas’ or Kawir’s atmosphere (despite the deceptive ritualistic introductory number, “Fire, ash, blood”) and none of the antiquity that colours the majority of themes springing from the region. No, Isolert has more in common with other relative newcomers to the Mediterranean subculture like Gaerea or Icelandic powerhouse Misþyrming when it comes to laying down wave after wave of suffering set to music.
See for yourself. You’ll thank me once the scars heal.
And, just like Gaerea (whose last record was reviewed here), Isolert is far from finished: World in Ruins is only their second full-length release and while they may not have enjoyed the exposure their Portuguese brothers-in-arms have, there is no doubt that they deserve it. Building on 2016’s No Hope, No Light…Only Death, this latest album is just a turn of the page, a new chapter in the Isolert story: one of minimal, to-the-point melodic black metal with more than its fair share of DSBM gloom tainting the proceedings – only without the self-indulgence. Isolert cut to the heart of their dissatisfaction with the world and express this in a way that brooks no uncertainty. “Burn them” and “Extinction” accurately summarize their misanthropic world perspective, but it’s “Staring at a path towards nowhere” that really hammers home the futility of existence among a depraved species.
The title track has a tough act to follow after this – but what it lacks in soul-crushing emptiness, it makes up for in dynamism. While the main theme carries an echo of the introspective sorrow of “Staring at a path towards nowhere,” the drums have their own agenda, relentlessly pressing home an urgent, inescapable truth, repeatedly lifting and falling… and all that’s before we even mention the haunted female vocal that ties the whole affair together in a neat, eerie bundle of inadequacies, uncertainties and despair.
Isolert doesn’t follow any herd-mentality trends or pay lip service to bigger names in the vain hope of reflecting some of their shine; no, here’s a band that’s been left to carve out their own corner of the left-field, and World in Ruins is an accomplished expression of that abandonment and dissatisfaction.
World in Ruins Track Listing:
1. Fire, ash, blood
2. Burn them
3. As we die
5. Staring at a path towards nowhere
6. World in ruins
7. Light… has Abandoned us
Run Time: 40:27
Release Date: November 11, 2020
Record Label: Nihilistische KlangKunst