The post-metal prog of Isis is exactly the kind of music that encourages beard-stroking. Amit Sharma doesn’t have a beard, but he knows what makes a good gig. We sent him along when Isis rolled into London.
LA-via-Boston post-metallers, Isis, have returned to London to plug their latest opus,Wavering Radiant – and where better to catch them than the Camden Koko, the venue they’ve famously previously performed their seminal album, Oceanic, in its 63-minute entirety?
You can always count on post rock / progressive bands to draw out some of the fuzziest faces this side of Middle Earth – nothing says “deep-thinker” more than a mammoth fuck-off beard (Fact) – and tonight there are many a fine beard being stroked in anticipation. It is somewhat fitting then, that frontman Aaron Turner proudly strolls onstage as the new owner of a rather striking beard himself. Oozing out both manliness and class, the beard is greeted by much applause.
After a short moment basking in the glory of their own feedback, the band launch into ‘Hall Of The Dead’, the opening track Wavering Radiant. Bassist Jeff Caxide and drummer Aaron Harris provide the perfect foundation for a band with such layer and texture – allowing the embellishments of keys and guitars to remain clear and unclouded above the rhythm section. Following on with ‘Stone To Wake A Serpent’, the band set the trend of tonight’s set as very much focusing on showcasing their newer material. It’s a step into a spacier dimension, more fixed on painting evolving soundscapes than bludgeoning us with sheer brutality. But with that said, tonight’s heavier moments tend feel pretty darn savage, accompanied by some epic headbanging from the now longer-haired Aaron Turner.
Whilst there is an undeniable Neurosis influence, they don’t carry the same sense of madness or despair – there’s something quite uplifting about Isis. If Neurosis are the crack frenzy, Isis would be the long, wistful yet optimistic comedown with tomorrow’s light at the end of the tunnel. BC Meyer’s electronics add a lot of colour to their sound, particularly tonight, and tonight they are overly loud in the mix – even drowning out the drums at points. Occasionally he switches to guitar to add some extra punch to the riffage and drone to the feedback, always playing the right part to enrich the wall of sound. Or at least what should have been a wall of sound – the overall volume was far too quiet for a band like Isis. Perhaps the soundman has gotten far too accustomed to engineering the limper indie band sounds that Koko usually plays host to, but this is Metal – it should be blasted loud enough to wake the dead.
Watch Isis play live @ London Camden Koko
After some more choice cuts off Panopticon and In The Absence Of Truth, the quintet’s encore kicks off with ‘Carry’ – interestingly the only track on tonight’s setlist off Oceanic, the album that usually makes up the bedrock of Isis’ live shows. Maybe tonight’s show would have been a tad better if they’d thrown in one or two heavier numbers, but there were still more than enough moments of brilliance onstage to keep many a man and beard in high spirits this cold October evening.
Isis @ Camden Koko – 21 October 2009 setlist:
Hall Of The Dead
Stone To Wake A Serpent
20 Minutes / 40 Years
Threshold Of Transformation