Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Beneath the Waves

Isis – Oceanic

Earlier I said that Isis' Panopticon was the best album I'd heard all year. I guess it was a little premature to be saying in February, as since then I've decided I like Dillinger Escape Plan's Miss Machine better, but Panopticon is still pretty awesome.

Oceanic is Isis' first album. I was expecting it to be less accomplished than their second, and I was right, but it is the album that established their reputation and it's pretty good. By and large it is more or less identical to Panopticon in style: heavy, slow metal with a peaceful side. Most of the music is composed of heavy, somewhat Tool-esque riffs, but there are plenty of mellow, more ambient bits (some with nice female vocals). It makes a really good contrast.

The one place where this album really falls down is the vocals, the singer just doesn't have the power to do the cookie monster at this stage (by Panopticon he's got it down though). That's the only criticism I can make however, the other musicians are great and the composition is brilliant, I'm especially impressed with how the way they wrote heavy metal that evokes the sounds of the ocean.

Which leads me into the concept behind the album. All the songs have a ocean related theme (see the titles Maritime and From Sinking), and while it's a good idea this kind of thing is easy to fuck up and it pretty much depends on the lyrics. In this case they come awfully close to the line between cool and pretentious, and I'm undecided which side they're on, but seeing as I haven't looked at them in detail yet and I just dissed the guys singing I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. The other aspects of the concept are handled particularly well, the aforementioned musical touches, and the CD booklet which is pretty nice. You can't go wrong with pictures of the ocean, and indeed they reused a little of that idea in the art for Panopticon.

I picked up the remix album as well which probably wasn't a good idea. These things are very rarely worthwhile and it was quite expensive. It came on two discs and the first one (with the mellower remixes) is pretty good, especially Mike Patton's offbeat contribution. The second one (with the more aggressive tracks) is not so good, with most of them falling into the same stuttering style that I find quite annoying, so while there are some good tracks it's probably not worth getting.

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