Isis - In the Absence of Truth Review
by Travis Becker
Once upon a time, a term like "smart metal" might have been considered an oxymoron. Justifiable or not, Metal has not always been accepted as a genre in which intelligence and craft had a place at the table. Isis leads the way for bands that utterly shatter that conception. Blending the progressive bent of Tool with conceptual and epic elements closer to Queensryche or Dream Theater into huge chunks of well-executed Metal, Isis hovers between a higher-minded Mastodon and a much heavier Pink Floyd. The band continues to grow and change its sound with their latest release, In the Absence of Truth.
If Oceanic and Panopticon proved to be milestones in Isis's career, In the Absence of Truth may stand as a crossroads to look back upon. While the group still employs intermittent roaring vocals and rolling riffs, the very heavy periods of the album are fewer and further between, almost acting as explosive punctuation for the quieter and more rhythmic interludes. In fact, the album doesn't really open up until the third song, "Dulcinea" begins to rumble. Headphone music to be sure, Isis gives the listener ample space to enjoy each note and theme throughout the album.
Repetitive, almost tribal, percussion frames the sound as the guitars (acoustic and electric) and various other instruments are allowed to wander freely through the songs, asserting themselves seemingly at will. "Firdous e Bareen" alone requires repeated listens to fully absorb, and absorb you must. The truth of the music only fully reveals itself upon many spins of this disc. When the traditional guitar riffs do make an appearance, they roll and churn like the sea, maintaining fluidity you won't find with any other band, and occasionally pounding like rough surf, wearing away old stone.
Epic once again describes the scale of an Isis album in the case of In the Absence of Truth. With many of the tracks topping out well over seven minutes, the band leaves the listener with the responsibility of interpreting from large lexicons. The songs hang together more effectively than the meandering songs on recent releases by Tool. Each part feels musically relevant rather than merely time consuming. The overall sound may not necessarily be larger and or more grandiose than previous releases by Isis, but it certainly covers more ground. Just take a listen to "Garden of Light", which wraps up the album with a sonic journey through a diverse, but decidedly heavy and always musical landscape.
The front cover of In the Absence of Truth states, "Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted." Yeah, that about sums it up.
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