Friday, November 18, 2011

Isolation - Closing a Circle (2011)

When your band's name is Isolation, there will exist a certain predilection towards the sounds you are putting out there, so I went into Closing a Circle with every stereotypical expectation of either a cold, callous black metal sound stripped to its basics or a crushing and oblivious doom. These were the genres being thrown around, and yet I am wholly surprised that these Germans perform in neither of the genres, at least not on this full-length debut (they've had a number of demos and other releases in the past which might be difference). I would say that Isolation have a certain 'post-' feel to them, that is to say that those genres might have been at their core, but the web they weave here only so rarely includes those genres.

No, this is more like depressive, somber rock with a lot of shining clean guitar tones driven over a thick sub-level of grooving, big bass and thick, percussive drumming. The vocals are the one real hangup I had with the recording, sort of a dreary, low to mid-tone crooning with the obvious German accent; and sometimes they come up pretty short. However, in general they do the trick enough to match the cadence of the music, which is wrought through dreamy, streaming chord patterns in numbers like the title track. Here is an example of where some of the metal influence really comes through, since the drumming is nearly non-stop double bass pummeling. However, the rest is academic, really, a sort of psychedelic, escalating swirl of rock not unlike some of the stuff Tiamat wrote for A Deeper Kind of Slumber. "Fan the Flames" is another of the heavier songs on the album, with some choppy, melodic doom riffing and a rare instance of harsh vocals.

In truth, what Isolation have come up with here feels fresh and original considering their origins, and most of the songwriting is consistent. The packaging to the album is minimal, blue and evocative; and the lyrics empty, emotional and image driven. The sparse spoken word bits work seamlessly into the whole. I actually like it most when they start jamming along, the bass swiveling under the most spy-like, mysterious chords of the guitar, like the short instrumental "There Will Be No Answer" or the most likely material to cause introspection, such as the eerie, pretty bridge to "The Wasteland". To their credit, they capture these poles well, and the bright, bold sound of the production does the music a great service. At times, the band might not live up the implied aesthetics of their moniker, and some of the vocals seem a bit sloppy, but Closing a Circle is nothing if not intriguing. I liked it, and fans of bands like Island/Klabautamann, late 90s Tiamat and maybe Norwegians Virus should check it out.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10]

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