ISIS: Wavering Radiant: CD/2xLP

I’ve always considered myself a nominal Isis fan. I had all their albums but didn’t listen to them much. However, I started reading some reviews of their latest album, Wavering Radiant, and was amazed how positive they all were so I decided to check it out. And I am very glad I did. This is easily Isis’ best work and it starts with the artwork. Designed by frontman Aaron Turner, it is gorgeous, especially for the LP. And speaking of Turner, his vocals on this album showcase his ability to maneuver between low barking and pleasantly melodic. It complements the sound wonderfully. It seems as though his vocals are about being another instrument more than the exact content of the words. This is okay because, lyrically, I have no idea what’s going on, as Turner’s verses are as cryptic as ever. The music, as usual, is the key with Isis. While a Neurosis (and maybe a little Mastodon?) influence can still be heard in the background throughout the album, the songs distinctly belong to Isis. It can be hard to pin a label on the band. They’re not quite metal but they’re not ambient by any means, either. Like other albums, it rotates between crushing and pleasant, brutal and gently floating. And every time you listen to the beauty of the album, Isis isn’t afraid to turn it over to the harsh. However, there is also a texture here—primarily through effective use of the keyboards—that wasn’t around on the other albums, or at least not utilized to the extent as on Wavering Radiant. These seven songs may not come out and grab you the first time through. Seeing as they’re meant to be listened to as a cohesive album, Wavering Radiant may require some commitment. Turn the lights out, lie down on your bed, put on the headphones, and turn it up. Unless the releases for the second half of 2009 blow me away, Wavering Radiant is easily making my top five of the year.

 –kurt (Ipecac, ipecac.com)