Saturday, August 13, 2011

Isis - In the Absence of Truth (2006)

In the Absence of Truth is possibly the strongest album in Isis's oeuvre. While the concept presented here is a return to the slightly vaguer type of "concepts" presented in Celestial and Oceanic, the album as a whole flows and coheres very well musically. (For the curious, the title of the album is likely derived from a quote by Hassan-I-Sabbah: "Nothing is true, everything is permitted.")

The first track starts off with a slow burn, but it functions as a nice opener, showing that they can start slow but strong.

The first standout track is "Not in Rivers, but in Drops," the second song, which shows off the full range of the band and the strides they have made since Panopticon. The bass is the most noticeably improve element, and the band has perfected the looping riffs we only see glimpses of in Oceanic and Panopticon. The sound on this track, as well as "Dulcinea," "1000 Shards," and "Garden of Light" would perhaps be more accurately described as a lattice-work of sound rather than a wall of sound. And, it works. Isis was never going to create something as pummeling as Neurosis, so it's nice to see them switch up the approach on this album.

There is also a noticeable refinement to Turner's vocals on this album. The clean vocals complement the melody well, and Turner's growls have a lot of bite to them without the East Coast Hardcore style he rocks on Celestial (and Oceanic to a certain extent).

But, this album is not without its faults. A couple of the transition tracks are a nap waiting to happen, though not all of them. "Over Root and Thorn," coming off the heels of the immensely enjoyable "Dulcinea" is largely ambient, which feels unnecessary in an album that cultivates an ethereal atmosphere with the heavier songs. "All Out of Space, All in Time" could be cut to the last 30 seconds and still function as a great intro to "Holy Tears." "Firdous e Bareen" (another Sabbah reference) does a great job of transitioning into "Garden of Light" and stays interesting, albeit mellow, throughout.

However, the closer, "Garden of Light," is quite possibly Isis's best individual track and makes a compelling case on its own for buying this album, which is almost certainly dirt cheap by now. The track is simultaneously serene and frenetic, and it's the closest to catharsis an Isis record will ever bring me. I find myself turning the volume up every couple of minutes to immerse myself in the sound a bit more.

Despite a few blemishes, this is as good as it gets for Isis, and this is the last really strong statement we get from Isis, as the following album is a bit of a mess.

Verdict: Epic Win [9/10]

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