Rock History 101: A Farewell to Isis

Dear Isis fans,

As you all, I’m sure, have come to find out, Isis (the beloved post-metal band that you all have come to know and love) have decided to call it quits. They’ve had a long, successful career spanning almost a full 13 years, and it seems that the group has decided to walk away from it all for many of the right reasons and almost none of the bad. To fans and band members alike, Isis is like the one girlfriend that got away; you know, the only meaningful one in your life that tells you, “If you love me, you’ll just let me go.” Yeah, it’s going to be a rough road, but the guys have created, composed, and gave birth to five full albums (not to mention the remix efforts, EP’s, and live DVD) of auditory memories and moments of a lifetime. So, “the end” should be considered a celebration of all that is sludgy and experimental, not a funeral where the remains are laid to rest.

Isis began to make music in 1997. Boston, Massachusetts was the original home of the quintet, but soon members of the band started to call Los Angeles home. As they came to find out that managing a band with some of the members 2,000 miles away from the others was a difficult task, the group decided to permanently change the home of Isis. The move to Southern California brought to the band new sources of inspiration and a largely dedicated fan-base.

By this time in the band’s career, Oceanic had already been released a year earlier, in 2002, and generated very positive buzz from critics and fans alike. While their first album, Celestial, focused mainly on the hardcore side of the metal genre, this second effort found much more experimental flavors being thrown into the mix. Oceanic is considered to be one of the main albums that helped give birth to the post-metal genre and once those heavy grooves and dark builds were revealed, fans never looked back. Like myself, other listeners clung to the music as an art-form, bringing a strange type of fandom to life.

2004 brought the release of Panopticon, which furthered the structurally diverse and beautifully layered sound that Isis was working toward all along. Fast forwarding to 2006 saw the release of In The Absence of Truth, Isis’ fourth full-length album. This was yet another step in the direction of evolution for the band. More of a melodic tone was brought to the forefront while tribal, polyrhythmic drumbeats were experimented with pushing the band, yet again, in the right direction. Some fans felt it was a bit more repetitive than normal, but for most, the notion was easily overlooked.

Isis’ final major release, Wavering Radient, was and is like the intense climax and inspirational resolution of the story where, I’m sure, all of you fans shit your pants, am I right? Trust me, I shit mine, too. The album is like a brilliant kaleidoscope of every auditory image created by the band. Each image overlaps and builds off the one before it, ending an entire history with a beautiful explosion of everything grim and brutal. Wavering Radient has become the band’s one final, complimentary note to everything that came before it, a swan song if you will, one that will resonate forever more as Isis’ greatest accomplishment. And now we arrive at the reason why the band decided to end it all. Tainting an already almost perfect career with a future endeavor that has chances of being over-ambitious and flawed would leave the band with nothing but bad tastes and nightmares, a decision that I support wholeheartedly.

I have been listening to Isis for about a decade now. The music Aaron Turner and crew have created easily burrowed its way into my listening library. I found myself allowing the sounds and scapes, the ebb and flow to pick me up and carry me through high school and now through college. Each song is like a transformation; think caterpillar into butterfly. The music broods and drones, dabbles in darker territories, yet explodes into something that is beautiful and harsh all in the same instant. Isis’ music has captured me like no other band has. With so many ups and downs to life, sometimes a little guidance is needed, and the concentrated build-ups and soft let-downs of the music helps to put life into perspective.

Isis isn’t all about the lyrics or the personalities behind what is being played. I’m sure the band members would agree with me when I say this: It is all about the music. Finding a common ground within the music and allowing yourself to break down personal barriers should be an important goal when listening. Being able to insert your own life experiences into the music allows for peace of mind and makes for a completely unique listening experience. And sure, focusing on the lyrics is fun and all, but interpreting the growls, screams, and singing as other instruments makes for an even more meaningful experience. Isis’ music allows for an infinite number of ways to interpret what is being heard, and that is what has appealed to me for so long. The music is left open for personal interpretation.

If you have never heard of Isis, it is time to start doing your research. If you’re someone who can barely stand a five minute song, then your attention span is too short, and the music wouldn’t appeal to you. That’s alright, though; no offense, but us fans don’t need people like you. It keeps the beautiful chaos special to each individual, makes us all like connoisseurs of the post-metal kind. Who knows what each member has in store for us in the future, but hopefully for us fans, the band will do a reunion show in another decade or so. Here’s to hoping.

Oh, and one last thing. Isis: thank you for creating music that means so much to us all.



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