ISIS — Oceanic (review)

ISIS — Oceanic album cover Album · 2002 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Isis' second album is a more mature album then their debut and it reveals a more personal sound. Isis toned down the aggression a notch and opened up the sound to let in more melodic and rhythmic development.

As shown by the opening track, there are still some growing pains though. The song has a difficult start, beginning with a second-hand Tool riff that fails to get under your skin. Also the dry & gruff vocals don't work well, failing both at being forceful and fearsome. After less then 2 minutes they resort to standard repetitious post-metal riffing. It lacks both the drive and inspiration to get going. Also The Other is an faceless doodling exercise.

But with False Light the band gets the post machine rolling. A churning riff, jagged rhythm and gruff shouts make up a compelling piece of music. After 3 minutes they balance it with a very strong quite section with beautiful harmonic bass and guitar chords. Carry is more abstract, building up slowly out of layers of guitar feedback. It ends with another section of richly layered guitar textures. One of the most compelling pieces is the sober Maritime, featuring not much more then calm guitar picking, a slowly flowing rhythm and a short touch of melody at the end.

In order to appreciate this music, you need to indulge in the slow build up of the music. Weight for example sounds like an unfinished drum track with slightly dissonant clean guitars for almost 3 minutes. But patience can be rewarded, dreamy repeated female vocals are added, then heavy guitars that build to a great climax.

Just like the opening tracks, the closing tracks leave me completely cold. They are repetitious drones that lack the good riffs and rhythms to get anything going. The heavy parts aren’t heavy nor interesting enough, the few quiet parts don’t bring anything new to the table.

An uneven album from a second tier post-metal band with enough talent to write the occasional highlight.
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