California’s Isis has pretty much perfected the thundering prog metal of Neurosis and their ilk, so it stands to reason that the release of their fifth record would unearth the quintet venturing in another direction without leaving the soil of their roots.
Wavering Radiant finds Isis working with rehabilitated focus, launching into soundscapes with reason and force. The roundabout jams of past records have been replaced with more necessity and the songs power through, smashing through seven-to-ten minute pieces with stirring intention. Nothing feels washed out, no single note feels like an accessory, and everything melts together in a massive gesture of striking sound.
The brand of intellectual post-metal played by Isis, Tool, and others often relies on the notion of driving as far away from the nu-metal mistake and forging ground with stimulating yet cataclysmic grave masterpieces. Sometimes branded post-rock or progressive metal, Isis has been at the forefront of that movement and has been instrumental in proving that metal can be smart and fucking loud all at once.
With Wavering Radiant, Isis is moving into the next phase of the movement.
Here, the band plays a game of catch-up with their back catalogue with nods to the ambient psychedelics of earlier works alongside the crush of howling vocals and burning guitar. There is also progress, though, and the band moves into terrain that could almost cruelly be described as “catchy.” The riffs are agreeable, almost Guitar Hero-ready, with Aaron Turner and Michael Gallagher blowing through some astonishing passages.
It’s strange to carve up Wavering Radiant into individual songs and so I shall avoid that. This is one valuable, adamant composition that deserves to be heard in its entirety rather than as a chain of unfastened compositions. Running just under an hour in length, Wavering Radiant deserves the candlelight treatment.
Aaron Harris’ drums run the scope from theatrical and challenging syncopated playing to multifarious passages that mess about with model time signatures. Bassist Jeff Caxide thunders underneath, driving intricate moods and anchoring the rhythm section gracefully. Rounding out the quintet, Bryant Clifford Meyer deepens the sound further with electric organ, Fender Rhodes, and a splash of guitar work.
Serving as exemplars of metal for the thinking person, Isis has delightfully regressed to some extent with Wavering Radiant. It is rousing case of the power of song construction serving a greater whole, a concept album without need for a concept, a piece of solidified art that will test speakers and minds all the same.
The entirety of Wavering Radiant is available now on the band's MySpace page.