Isis are back for a final time with a rarities/demos album, will this album live up their legacy of atmospheric sludge or will it put us all to sleep, 411's Robert Cooper will tell you yay or nay!
So here I am, I finally have taken up a review on a band that I have never listened to, and only went off of reputation and the internet to know if it was worth taking on. I can say that after listening to both discs, that it was a right choice, but man, was it a draining
The first song on the first disc is a demo of the song, "Threshold of Transformation", originally from their 2009 album, 'Wavering Radiant'. The song itself is a very long one, clocking in at almost 10 minutes, but the good thing that the band does is go that atmospheric route with the song, though there are some parts that kind of lull me to a sense of security with how atmospheric it is, but perhaps it does drag for a litle bit, but not long enough to make this a bad song.
The next song is an alternative demo for the song, "Ghost Key", it starts out with a nice, soft opening, and then leads into a really groovy sound, but quickly heads back into that softer feel. I love the guitars in it, they have a kind of soothing nature, and the guitar goes back to that multiple times in the long song. There are a few sludgier passages that balance out those softer parts. The ending is also a great ending and ends the song on a high note. It has that same feeling that "Threshold" had the same bottomless quality and is more than good enough for a few listens.
Following is another alternative demo, "Wills Dissolve" off of 'Panopticon'. This is another of their quieter, instrumental focused song. At least for about half the song, then that sludge starts to creep up again, and the song gets a bit heavier, but not so heavy as to ignore the lightness that was in the song earlier, it is a constant presence in the song overall, as it is a nice backing track to the heavier sound of the second half of the song.
Next is a demo of the song "Carry", off of their album 'Oceanic'. The song is much like all of the other songs that I have looked at on this album, it is a large song, with many layers in it. But there is something a bit different in this song, this song actually goes from the ambient feel to a very loud and heavy section that would be at home in any sludge or doom record, I love that about the song, they've managed to do something that really hasn't been in the album so far with a really heavy hammer to it.
The next to last part of this album is the demo for "False Light", which is also off of 'Oceanic'. I really dug what the track was doing. It had that driving force that was instrument driven, but also had the vocals in the background bringing your ears even closer in to see hear them. I like the track, this track has that element to it where every second is interesting because there is still so much to the song to figure out, even after it is done.
Wrapping up the album is a demo for the song "Grey Divide". This song is for sure a song that needs headphones to be truly appreciated. It is a veeeeeeery long song, clocking in at over 16 minutes, this song was a pretty good one, though I didn't feel it to be as engaging as the past songs on this disk, but this is still overall a good song.
The first song on this second disc is a cover of Godflesh's "Streetcleaner", which also comes from an album of the same name; and was also on Isis's, 'Sawblade' EP. IT starts out heavy, really fun to headbang to. Though the vocals don't in for almost 2 minutes, the song, while not changing much in terms of sound, is plenty entertaining, and the guitar getting higher and higher throughout the song is a fun touch that keeps the listener interested. The cover is a very large undertaking, it kind of reminds me of a Sunn O))) song with the scope that it offers, because it's very interesting to listen to.
Next up, we get the song I was looking forwards to, the cover of Black Sabbath's "Hand of Doom". It's definitely a different take on it, with the verses being a more airy version of the original, but it makes you listen deeper to the song. But after about 2 minutes, the song just goes quiet and comes full force, with a heavier version of what was coming out at the beginning. Their version of this definitely showcases the awesomeness that is Tony Iommi's riffs. One issue I do have is that during the guitar solo, the guitar is not the focus in that section, the drums are much louder in the mix. It then fades out again, to then come with another groovy interpretation of the song, with the bass and drums being featured yet again. The same problem does come up in the second guitar solo, I know that they were going for a heavy sound with this section, but I kind of want the guitar to be the feature, as the song does fix towards the tail end of the solo.
After that is a remix of their song, "Not in Rivers, But In Drops", from their album, 'In the Absence of Truth'. The song is a bit different than what came from the album after that. Instead of a bottomless sound, this song has almost a wall of sound in the background that really focuses you on what the song is doing. I also like the use of the death growls that are coupled with the muted guitars, it makes a nice contrast.
Next up is a remix of the song "Holy Tears", originally from the album 'In the Absence of Truth'. I like how within the span of three minutes, the mood shifts from a normal song, to a death like slowness. To slowly creeping back up to the world of the living. This band surely does know how to take a song and turn up the level of interesting in it at will. By the time the 8 minute mark it was back to heavy, only to die back down again. A very interesting song, though the last bit might fatigue you, because you might be trying to fight stuff in that atmospheric wind that is at the end.
The next song is a quiet bit called, "Temporal", it wasn't too much, but for an instrumental song, it set a certain mood.
Next up in the song "Way Through Woven Branches", from their split album with The Melvins. I really liked this song, it has much more lyrical content than the stuff that came from their later albums, and it also had the use of more growling vocals, which are often welcomed with me. I could swear that part of the middle section reminds me of a Katatonia song I heard once, but I'm probably hearing things. I really did like he change of pace this song was, at least vocal wise.
Now comes the penultimate song, "Pliable Foe", also off of their split album. I like the song just for the fact that this feels more like a regular song that anything. It doesn't exactly have as many ambient sections to it, and there is also a lot in terms of lyrical content. There is even a surprising amount of growling vocals, which just like every other time they show up in this album, I get excited, because when stuff like this is here to equal out all of the ambientness that is in the two albums here.
Finally, in what is something that I dearly love when it comes to music, is an acoustic cover of a song, especially when it's done right. Their acoustic covering of their song, "20 Minutes/40 Years" from their last album, "Wavering Radiants". It has a lot of soul to it, and I must say that I could listen to hours of it. It really sucks you (and me) in and I enjoy the song greatly.
The 411: All in all, I think that this is a VERY good album, but there is one problem that I have, is that while this is a very good album, it is really only for the fans, because I don't feel like rarities and demos are the thing to really introduce you to a band that has a very vast catalogue, as well as the sound to fill that cataloe. There also is another problem, that even I ran into, this 2 disc set should not be consumed all at one time, because it will mentally drain you due to the fact that there is a lot to the album and trying to listen for all of it can really tire you out. But if you want a very good band that has some atmospheric and sludgy tendencies to go with some metal, try picking this up sometime.