In The Absence of Truth
Many bands on the scene today attempt to push a more expansive, experimental approach into the niche of hard rock, but there are very few who do it as well as the Los Angeles quintet Isis. Throughout their career, the band has skillfully mixed the growling vocals and bottom heavy riffs of hardcore metal with atmospheric keyboards and surprisingly expressive drumming that pays more heed to tasteful tom rolls than to cymbal crashes and double kick pedal assaults.
That being said, it seems that the band has fallen into a fairly steady routine with their work — stretching out their songs with lengthy instrumental breakdowns, shifting tempos and rhythms smoothly, and veering between more melodic singing and forceful metal grunts. Although the results are as hypnotic and challenging as we’ve come to expect from Isis, In The Absence of Truth is no exception to the formula. Only one song on the album is less than six minutes long, and that is a droning three-minute instrumental break (“All Out of Time, All Into Space”), with the rest, on average, pushing the eight minute mark. It makes for some fascinating music, but it brings up the question of what the band would sound like if they tried to pare their ideas down into short, sharp chunks.
Now that they have been performing for over a decade, Isis does have down to a science how to build a song up and slowly take it apart. “Firdous E Bareen” starts with a throbbing programmed rhythm, which gets methodically colored in by shards of guitar sound and a shuddering bass line. The song, amazingly, never explodes, but rather simmers and bubbles with lava-like heat and intensity. Elsewhere, on the earth shaking “Over Root and Thorn”, guitarists Aaron Turner and Michael Gallagher slowly bring in a long squeal of feedback that increases in volume for two minutes before the rest of the band appears out of the ether.
When a band knows how to craft a sound and a song as well as Isis obviously does, it would be a shame to mess with a good thing. Yet, again, you have to wonder where the band will go from here. Will they keep on their steady unbroken stream of pressure cooker art rock, or will they surprise everyone with a change of direction and influences that will challenge and possibly alienate their firm fan base? Whatever the answer, we can all be assured that the band will do something worth paying attention to.