By: Ron Hart
Boston's Isis has enjoyed a decade-long career as one of the most progressive metal bands to ever arrive at the headbanger's ball. Their heady balance of atmosphere and aggression helped to inspire a sea of imitators, but none of them can walk such a tricky sonic tightrope quite like them.
For Wavering Radiant (Ipecac Recordings), the band experiments with melody in the same manner they have with digital fuzz and amplifier sludge. After exploring the boundaries metal can go to without losing its street cred on a trilogy of heavy space classics - 2002's Oceanic, 2004's Panopticon and 2006's In The Absence of Truth - Isis hunker down to deliver their most cohesive set of songs yet on album number five. Employing Joe Barresi, a veteran studio auteur who helped craft such stony masterpieces as The Melvins' Honky and Kyuss' Blues for the Red Sun, the leftfield hard rock/metal producer brings a great sense of focus to the Isis sound, as songs like the Jesu-esque "Ghost Key" and the phenomenal ten-plus-minute foray into Meddle-era Pink Floyd dynamism "Hand of the Host".
Tool guitarist Adam Jones lends a hand on two tracks as well, playing guitar on opener "Hall of the Dead" and keyboards on the title cut, which clocks in at an unprecedented minute-and-a-half, making it the shortest piece of music Isis has recorded since those SGNL interludes on their 2000 debut Celestial. One can only hope the next Tool album will follow Isis' lead in terms of exploration and creativity, especially following Maynard James Keenan's putrid side foray into utter stupidity that was Puscifer, which quite arguably alienated a good portion of Tool's fanbase.
While, for the most part, metal and its idioms continue to placate the most juvenile demographic of its large fanbase, it's great to see a band like Isis grow up with its audience, crafting beautiful, epic heaviness that's as mindful as it is mind-blowing.
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