ISIS — Wavering Radiant — the ultimate metal music online community, from the creators of

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4.08 | 41 ratings | 7 reviews
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Album · 2009


1. Hall of the Dead (07:39)
2. Ghost Key (08:29)
3. Hand of the Host (10:42)
4. Wavering Radiant (01:48)
5. Stone to Wake a Serpent (08:30)
6. 20 Minutes / 40 Years (07:04)
7. Threshold of Transformation (09:53)

Total Time 54:05

Japan CD edition:

8. Way Through Woven Branches (06:25)

Total Time 60:30


- Aaron Turner / vocals, guitar
- Mike Gallagher / guitar
- Jeff Caxide / bass
- Aaron Harris / drums
- Bryant Clifford Meyer / electronics, guitar

Guest musicians:
- Adam Jones (of Tool) / additional guitar (track 1), keyboards (track 4)

About this release

CD released 5th May 2009 on Ipecac Recordings (IPC-113CD) / Conspiracy Records (CORE 078).

CD released 5th May 2009 in Japan on Daymare Recordings (DYMC 090).

12" vinyl 2LP released 21st April 2009 on Conspiracy Records (CORE078), limited to 3000 copies:

100 transparent blue
400 solid dark blue
1000 solid yellow
1500 black

Repressed on 200 clear vinyl 2LP.

12" picture disc vinyl 2LP released 21st April 2009 in Japan on Daymare Recordings (DYMV 090), limited to 800 copies.

12" vinyl 2LP released 21st April 2009 on Ipecac Recordings (IPC-113LP), limited to 3000 copies:

100 clear
400 clear blue
1000 yellow/white Swirl
1500 black

Repressed on 250 white vinyl 2LP.

12" remastered vinyl 2LP released 2017 on Robotic Empire (ROBO118), limited to:

450 clear/yellow splatter (Band Exclusive)
775 blue/white splatter
775 black/white splatter
??? black

Produced by Joe Barresi.
Written, arranged, and co-produced by Isis.

Recorded and mixed at JHOC, November 2008-January 2009, assisted by Jun Murakawa.
Additional recording at Sound City, assisted by Adam Fuller.
Drum Tech: Jerry Johnson
Mastered by Brian Gardner at Bernie Grundman Mastering, January 2009.

Artwork and design by Aaron Turner.
Photography by and background coloring by Faith Coloccia.
Livesound: Jonathan Gardner and Greg Moss.

Thanks to bartosso, Bosh66 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Having knocked it out of the park with Oceanic and Panopticon, Isis can afford to experiment with their style a bit. Wavering Radiant doesn't radically overturn the Isis sound, but it does offer up more space here and there for the band to work through the quieter side of their sound, to the point where at stages this sounds like a gentle Explosions In the Sky release here and there. As far as their distinctive blend of post-rock and sludge metal goes, it's not going to sell you on it if you didn't dig their top-tier releases, but if you've already found that you like this particular sonic territory it's a reasonable expansion of it.
Hate-love relationship

My first encounter with Isis took place a few weeks after release of their fourth album, IN THE ABSENCE OF TRUTH, and I didn't like it then. Really, for 4 years I simply didn't like Isis (how dared I?). It started to change gradually a year ago and a few days ago something just clicked. My attitude towards this band has become, well, very positive. Now I know that this band is a damn grower. I needed a whole year to start to appreciate their output, and their last record, WAVERING RADIANT, has become my favourite part of it.

From all Isis albums I've listened to so far, this one has the best production. Mood changes, so frequent in their music, are well conveyed by pounding, organic drums and thick guitar distortion in turns with soft post-rock strumming. The sound is clean and professional but quite organic and pleasantly airy at the same time. Joe Barresi has done a good job as always.

WAVERING RADIANT is the most mature Isis album in every way, and even if it's still not a flawless masterpiece, it has grown on me enough to become one of my favourite post metal albums. While PANOPTICON is more straightforwardly depressive and atmospheric, the ambiance of WAVERING RADIANT is more difficult to define and definitely more intriguing. Old, melancholic and atmospheric Isis is still there but the band seem to plunge into more experimental regions on their final opus. With a subtle use of electronic spices, crushing waves of distortion power chords, post-rock passages and unmistakable vocals, they have created an aura of dark mystery and menacing unknown - all this immersed in an ambiance of psychedelic depression. This genuine, melancholic mood is what I love most about that band.

Aaron Turner's clean vocals are definitely an acquired taste (which I haven't completely acquired) and they can be tiresome sometimes. I still think he has done a good job. Generally speaking it's an excellent metal album - despite some composition shortcomings - and undoubtedly one of the best works in post metal and atmospheric sludge genres.

TRACKS BY RATINGS: 9/10[fantastic!]: Hall of the Dead; Stone to Wake a Serpent; Hand of the Host || 8/10[great]: Ghost Key; Threshold of Transformation || 7/10[very good]: 20 Minutes / 40 Years || OVERALL = 83/100
Conor Fynes
'Wavering Radiant' - Isis (8/10)

I remember the day I heard Isis broke up. A fairly overcast day by all accounts, and I was left hating myself for never getting tickets to the last show the post-metal giants would ever play in Vancouver. One of the sadder music moments in 2010 to be sure, but they can't be said to have left the scene without one last great album. While not my favourite of the works Aaron Turner and company have crafted over the course of their career together, 'Wavering Radiant' concludes the Isis saga with a dark and brooding piece of metal no less worthy a contribution to their catalogue than any other.

Musical comparisons to the band Tool are certainly no stretch of the imagination; it feels as if through their contact, Isis has assimilated part of that band's bass-heavy sound and rhythmic builds into their own formula. While I might not like Tool, these new elements do add a dark feeling to the music that really works. The tracks here are generally drawn out with sludgy riffs, psychedelic ambiance and Turner's distinctive baritone. The music is well- played, but moreso in the great choice of timbres as opposed to any flamboyant technical playing, of which there is none here. Instead, Isis opts for an ironically mellow approach to their metal; while there may be growls and heavy riffs here, the sound never feels out of control. This high sense of calibration and intention throughout the songwriting makes the heavier moments feel a bit boring. Isis' strength here however lies in the more atmospheric segments of the music, which are done absolutely masterfully here.

The lighter, more post-rock oriented moments of 'Wavering Radiant' turn out incredibly; mixed generously with psychedelic effects and experimentation with noise effects. On top of this, Aaron Turner's clean vocals work perfectly for this style of music, equally as brooding and as downtuned as the guitars themselves. The sludgier sections of the album are a bit more hit-or-miss, especially towards the second half of the record. While the first three tracks of A-class material, the interlude title track onwards can be a bit more of a bumpy ride, resulting in a closing track ('Threshold of Transformation') that feels like it simply peters out, rather than delivering a real climax to the music.

A great album overall, although it does feel as if Isis has left us with a would-be masterpiece; one that could have easily become a classic with a few improvements and extra considerations put into the sound.

Rest in peace, Isis.
The Angry Scotsman
Isis may be the very definition of a progressive metal band.

Starting with their first EP, Isis has maintained their core sound, (sludge) but on each subsequent EP and album have refined the sound, tuning this and changing that. Not a progressive band that jumped all over the place with wild leaps and experimenting, but truly progressing, slowly and surely up the mountain until finally reaching the summit, with this album, their magnum opus.

Wavering Radiant showcases their classic sound, (moreso than their last album) but this is not a throwback. Instead it features more of a soundscape feel than wall of sound. The extensive use of keyboard on this album adds a perfect touch. It plays a filler role, and is used with honest perfection.

Balance is the key to this album, balance in each individual song, the overall album and flow. Wavering Radiant's overall journey takes you up a hill, then over the top and down into a valley, up another hill over the top and ends gently rolling to a place like where we started.

The aggressive and heavy/mellow and ambient musical dynamic is as present as ever, though both sections have more nuance than ever and are soundscape influenced. The chilling sometimes space rock keyboard backdrops both, and Turners vocals are split evenly between his harsh, tortured gasps and melodic clean singing.

Notice I didn't mention any songs, which was the case with most of my Isis reviews. That's because Isis has always been greater than the sum of its parts. Each song by itself is a part of the grand clock, and this album is perhaps the best example. Wavering Radiant may actually have the most diverse song experience on any Isis album, but also displays the best overall experience. Taking the album as a whole, single experience is far more rewarding than every song on its own.

Wavering Radiant is the best album Isis put out, their crowning achievement. Not a single bad moment on the whole album, filled with emotion and deep planning, this is cerebral metal and an absolute masterpiece.

Five Stars

Isis may also have felt they reached the pinnacle with this album, as they decided to retire after the subsequent tour, choosing to go out on top and not fading painfully into an overdue retirement. In the typical, extremely well thought out fashion, Isis played their final show where they played their first one, and ended it with the song "The Beginning of the End" appropriate on many levels.

Just to make sure, without any doubt, Isis was bowing out Turner took a stuffed bear that had been on stage with them since their very early years, threw it into the crowd, and walked off stage.
Isis is a band that’s constantly evolving. Starting out as a rough Sludge Metal band, they’ve moved towards a different sound. A more open sound perhaps. There still are the heavy riffs that are distinctive for Isis’ sound, though they aren’t as overwhelming as on an album like Oceanic. Instead, the music tends to focus more on creating a more atmospheric experience with a more progressive approach.

Still, Isis’ sound is dominated by heavy guitars and pretty distinctive sounding drums. Also, the bass is a very important part of Isis’ sound, contributing a lot to the heavy and thick sound that the band creates. Another important factor to the new Isis’ sound are the very present keyboards, that produce some brooding atmosphere. Despite the album being very good overall, it tends to drag a bit. The music never quite reaches the heights of an album like for example Oceanic and while most of the songs contain some climaxes, those often don’t sound all too dynamic and passionate as I suppose they could have been. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the music on the album is very enjoyable and songs like “Hall Of The Dead”, “Ghost Key” and “Threshold Of Transformation” are just great.

Wavering Radiant doesn’t quite reach the heights of some other Isis releases, but is a good album nevertheless. Therefore, three and a half stars suit it very well I think. If you enjoy atmospheric yet heavy Post-Metal, you probably will enjoy this album.

Members reviews

Isis is a band that needs no introduction, they are at the very tip of the ruthless spearhead that is post metal. Since their breakout album "Oceanic" They've influenced bands from the mammoth instro-metal band Pelican, to the brutal hardcore band The Ocean, to the psychedelic sludge band Minsk, and Isis' legacy grows with Wavering Radiant. After what many consider their masterpiece Panopticon, the band took a new direction towards a less up tight, and slightly more primal, maybe tribal sound with In the Absence of Truth. I for one was very disappointed with that album, I felt like they were blending their sludgy sound with Tool's very open, yet technical sound, leaving me feeling like it was an unoriginal, and awkward mix. With Wavering Radiant though, I think the group found what they were looking for! Heavier textures, but with a softer, more progressive feel!

The first thing I noticed on this album is that the mixing is incredibly different. They've stepped off the distortion quite a bit so that both guitars can easily be distinguished from one another, which came out absolutely flawless! This however almost completely leaves their sludgy sound completely out in the snow, only coming up during the climaxes of Ghost key, and Hand of the Host. The bass has been turned up quite a bit, giving us the view of Jeff Caxide's incredibly melodic style of bass playing, along with his dreamy texturing achieved with pumped up delay and chorus. Thankfully both of Aaron's style of singing have been turned up significantly , so he;s not just groaning in the background anymore. I should also mention that this album is much more lyrical, more singing, more growling, giving the album more of a sense of direction, despite the lack of the standard pop structures (and thank God for that). Easily the most notable difference in the sound is the keyboards. Not only have they been pumped up considerably, but they add so much more to the music than ever before. Instead of just background chords and soundscapes, Meyer actually uses the keys for making strong melodies and even leads in some songs.

With all that being said, this album isn't ridiculously different from Panopticon or ItAoT, they stick to their roots by starting most of their songs at a slow, brooding pace, and slowly climax into incredibly heavy sections. Hall of the Dead opens the album on a different note, played to chugging guitars, and spacey keys, as the song goes on, you can hear how the song is pretty experimental with the help of Danny Carey, and some cool guitar and keyboard interplay. My favorite song though is Ghost Key For it's sludgy, and crushing climax. That being said their isn't a weak song on the album, though a little different from anything they've done, every song is solid, and plays it's role nearly perfectly as the album progresses.

The only flaws I can think of are the lack of the sludge element that was prominent before, and really added a certain dynamic to the music, and the other being the keyboards use of semi cheesy leads. I cant help but think that some of the keyboards melodies are transcendent of some synth pop leads back in the eighties. Other than that, this is an incredibly good album, no masterpiece, but a very important part for your post metal discography, and IMO, a good direction for the bands maturity.
If there's one evolving band in metal today, it's Isis. From the sludgy debut "Celestial" to the complex release of "In the Absence of Truth," Isis has been releasing albums marked by their trademark but maturing sound. So does "Wavering Radiant" follow this trend or does it upset it?

The song "Hall of the Dead" opens the album in the way an anticipated metal album should: a rising crescendo, suddenly disrupted by a groovy downtuned chugging riff. The addition of Bryant Clifford Meyer's eccentric electronics provide a dreamy supplement to Isis' rather rough sound. However, the most notable element of the music becomes clear at the recognition of the bass guitar - the intricate lines not only serve to lay down a groovy foundation, but Jeff Caxide uses his instrument skillfully to add eerie atmosphere with leads. Combined with Isis' excellent sense of progression, the end of this first track creates the anticipation of greater things to come.

If not yet realized, the following track "Ghost Key" confirms the importance of Isis' drum work - the drumming is consistently tight in agreement with their previous releases, particularly "In the Absence of Truth." The production of the drums is such that the drums only seem to do what is necessary - the beats are complex, but the overall tightness of the sound, in contradicting juxtaposition with the rather dirty and reverb-laden sounds of the guitars and bass, serve to provide coherence as the backbone of the music. The subtle electronics are new, but strangely, they still appear familiar in regard to Isis' style; they appear almost everywhere but never sound overdone, just as the stripes of a tiger never seem excessive on its fur, but rich and magnificent.

The song "Hand of the Host" repeats the general concept of the prior track, with shifting dynamics enhanced by the addition or absence of various tones and sounds. Subtlety is key here - the guitars are no longer as reliant on memorability, but atmosphere. Melodic fills and the dissonance often caused by them are not weak or feeble, but create just as much impact as riffs from older Isis songs such as "Carry" and "In Fiction."

The title track "Wavering Radiant" serves as a gateway from the first half of the disc to the next. Purely an atmospheric filler track, it is reminiscent of classic psychedelia, calling into reminder the title of the album "Wavering Radiant" - the music truly does seem to waver and vacillate in the likeness of an introspective journey of the human mind.

Again, coherence enters the music again with the drums of "Stone to Wake a Serpent." While the rawness is still there, this track evokes feelings more akin to that of King Crimson-esque progressive rock, again enhanced by the keyboards. The guitars move the song forward, and the oscillating sounds occasionally invoked by them serve as the canvas for ethereal guitar and bass work. Seen from the beholder's perspective, an image of depression and disillusioning gain of human knowledge can be imagined.

With "20 Minutes/40 Years," we approach the realm of darkness within the mind - the creeping atmosphere is almost overwhelming and becomes fulfilled by the ferocity of Aaron Turner's growls and distorted guitars. His new reliance on singing for the sake of shifting moods becomes more apparent when they come in. Has Isis ever been this thoughtful before? And even in this complexity, the song further rides on the low bass lines that essentially just... sing. The consistency of the album so far has been relatively uniform but continue to intrigue, just like a well-written novel.

The final track begins violently; we are at the onset of a violent "Threshold of Transformation." Turner's vocals invoke images of a feeble, moaning man; then, we realize that this is the purposeful effect of his singing. The dynamics of the interlude of the song progress excitedly and violently as a growing response to its introduction; something within is changing...transforming. The drums serve as the engine to this transformation while the guitars seem to spiral in within the music. The darkness of the almost completely instrumental ending of the album conjure up a sense of hopelessness. The mysterious, eerie finale of the music calls the listener into self-observance.

Isis has been marked for having consistent concepts through each of their albums, and this is no exception; this is undeniably Isis. However, the band has realized the effect of tiny subtleties and discovered a new path in their musical existence. To answer the question of the beginning paragraph, yes, Isis is continuing to follow the evolutionary trend of their sound. The music is maturing to become a true work of art, painting landscapes and evoking deep sentiments and emotions. Isis' music has never been so interpretive as it is on "Wavering Radiant," a new masterpiece in the page of post-metal.

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