Isis - In The Absence Of Truth [ipecac - 2006]Six years ago when Isis released Celestial they were not much more than one of dozens of bands trying to take a piece of the market that had up until then been owned by Neurosis. Their crunch and power mixed with occasional shafts of light made them interesting but not really true contenders. That changed with Oceanic which catapulted them into the position of avant-metal darlings, a status that while not advanced on with the subsequent record Panopticon, was not diminished. Now in 2006 the playing field is very different with the lines between metal, hardcore, post-rock etc blurring ever more does the Isis sound still resonate.
The packaging of In the Absence of Truth certainly demands attention, a woven tapestry of golden strands and white light. Wrists of kings kicks things off with a slow synth and tribal drum build up. That leads into a fairly melodic almost Morricone like guitar line. The tempo shifts and the band ebb and flow into a considered groove with sung rather than growled vocals. Epic turns of distorted bass and guitar allow for some more aggressive vocals to appear but overall itís a powerful controlled start to the album.
Not in rivers, but in drops follows much in the style of the opening track with full on rock out moments mixed with hardcore aggression and a few bits of post-rock like introspection. I guess itís the bands juxtaposition of these moments that first made them stand out from the crowd. Over root and thorn is where things begin to get interesting. After a long distorted feedback build up from silence a nicely atmospheric instrumental unfolds recalling the slow burn epics of Mono, Godspeed You Black Emperor et al. Unfortunately they couldnít leave it as an instrumental and there is a minute or so of growling halfway through the pieces eight and a half minute run time.
All out of time, all into space is another atmospheric track that uses electronic noise, radio static and other effects to create the feel of decay and loss that leads nicely into Holy Tears. Something of an anthem this track that has a cracking opening riff and vocal. But again they slow things down just as fast as they speed things up, the tracks pace builds up again over a couple of minutes to return with a vengeance with growling vocals and a droning end.
Firdous E Bareen is as experimental as the band get on this album, beginning with popping electronic beats and curiously manipulated electronic effects and drones. A fairly straightforward drum beat joins but is at points resampled and flung back into the mix creating stuttering effects. Isis do this stuff pretty well and it stands up to the likes of Do Make Say Think and other acts more known for this kind of spacey jazz infused rock.
Overall itís a mixed album, Isis shift gears so much that at times itís difficult to really make a connection with the music. They donít rock out for long enough, they donít pummel you into submission like old Neurosis yet they donít seem to have the patience to make slow burning music like the post-rock set. As a result they fall between many stools. The lines have blurred but as a result Isis are risking fading into the crowd once again.Duncan Simpson