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Isis - "In the Absence of Truth" (CD)

Isis - "In the Absence of Truth" CD cover image

"In the Absence of Truth" track listing:

1. Wrists of Kings
2. Not in Rivers, But in Drops
3. Dulcinea
4. Over Root and Thorn
5. 1, 000 Shards
6. All out of Time, All into Space
7. Holy Tears
8. Firdous E Bareen
9. Garden of Light

Reviewed by on November 2, 2006

"The album is exactly the kind of offering one would expect in the wake of 2002's “Oceanic” and 2004's “Panopticon”, only better."

Music media outlets everywhere have struggled mightily by trying to apply an all encompassing genre label on Isis. Everything from avant garde and art-metal to post-hardcore and metalgaze have been used but no single term seems applicable. It’s a fruitless endeavor and an indication of the band's inherent originality and capacity for growth. “In the Absence of Truth” finds the band boldly treading into new territory while keeping their signature sound firmly in hand. The album is exactly the kind of offering one would expect in the wake of 2002's “Oceanic” and 2004's “Panopticon”, only better. Spanning nine tracks and 65 minutes, “In the Absence of Truth” is a tension building, spacious and claustrophobic, ambient and metal masterwork.

Among the most noticeable changes in the band's sound is the greater use of clean vocals and the fact that they have been raised slightly in the mix. By no means does vocalist Aaron Turner dominate the music but he is no longer buried by the guitars as in previous records. Single note guitar melodies are more defined and rich, even compared to “Panopticon", while bass lines are permitted to cascade melodically in the foreground, as heard in Tool’s last two albums. Most noteworthy is drummer Aaron Harris’s broadened profile within the band. Harris creates rhythms that can be as entrancing as Pink Floyd or as tribal and militant as Sepultura.

“Wrists of Kings” is a chilling and cinematic slow burner that builds its foundation on the back of bongo style percussion and chiming guitars. The song begins ambient to the point of hypnotic but the eventual transition to double kick drums and bellowed roars is breathtakingly subtle. “Holy Tears” volleys between crushing grooves and vast, isolated expanses, while vocals teeter between irrate low-end hardcore screams to clean and sustained singing. Half of the song is free of vocals entirely. Creeping past the nine minute mark, “Garden of Light” is a fitting closer. Twinkling guitars and imploring vocals vie with sprinting bass lines and torrential drums resulting in an epic finish.

Metal heads looking for the speed and brutality of acts like Dimmu Borgir, Pig Destroyer or Strapping Young Lad will need to look elsewhere. Isis are just as prone to ease into 5 minutes of droning ambience as they are to launch into a post-hardcore breakdown. Conversely, this album should appeal immediately to fans of Neurosis, Tool and Jesu. The songs structures are intricate, meandering, subtle and ornate, insuring the listener will hear something new with every spin. “In the Absence of Truth” will likely be the album that nudges Isis into the spotlight. In lieu of the many genre tags to be pinned onto Isis hereafter, it’s comforting to find a group that not only defies preexisting genre-labels but foreces the music media to come up with new ones.

Highs: Spacious interludes, densely layered three guitar assaults, multi-tiered arrangements and a more audible vocalist not only make this Isis’s strongest album but an absolute benchmark for post-metal.

Lows: Like any music, one has to be in the mood for this album. It wont satiate those looking for the savagery of Behemoth or the radio-minded accessibility of Linkin Park.

Bottom line: Isis are in a class of their own and “The Absence of Truth” is the bands defining statement, surpassing both “Oceanic” and “Panopticon.”

Rated 5 out of 5 skulls
5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)