It’s 2:00AM and the cops, as ever, are sitting in the parking lot of the firehouse across the street, waiting for nobody. Practically no one drives past this late — even the drunks are home by now on a Wednesday night. Something died outside and I can smell it comingling with the farts and sleepy dog stink in this room through the open window. Like Orange Goblin says, “Some you win, some you lose.” I promised myself I’d write this review before I went to bed today, so let’s do this thing:
Pop the top on Isole‘s fourth album in as many years (they had a seven inch in ’06 as well), Silent Ruins (Napalm Records), and the first word to appear in your mind is bound to be, “Sweden.” No other country in the EU or anywhere else for that matter could produce a band to successfully harness this kind of epic doom. Oh, there’s acts from elsewhere who’ll try, but usually they fall on their ass. Even if you hadn’t traced the four-piece through the first two albums they put out on I Hate Records, you’d know it right away.
So, Sweden it is, with fingers pointing vaguely in the classic direction of countrymen Candlemass (the track “Nightfall” could have been on the album of the same name) and the Viking-inspired days of black metal pioneers Bathory (pieces of opener “From the Dark” and follow-up “Forlorn” apply the style, admittedly without laying it on as thick as Ereb Altor), Isole lurches forth to leave a grandiose footprint in the international traditional doom marketplace, bringing in some Solitude Aeturnus-style riff and vocal power on “Soulscarred.” They do alright in pulling it off without sounding like a band totally copycatting their influences.
The promo copy granted me for review purposes had voiceovers on all but the first three tracks, which is something that professional hacks despise — not only because it points out their own lack of trustworthiness and underscores the contempt that shades nearly everything, even if passively, the music industry does, but also because it makes it legitimately makes it more difficult to get into the vibe of an album — but without them here, I’d never know Silent Ruins was subtitled Redemption Part I. I’ve searched the artwork and it’s certainly nowhere to be found there. Nor is it on their MySpace page, or their website. Apparently it’s a voiceover-only kind of thing. Something special for the press. I can dig it.
It’s a turn but not an out of place one when things get all Swallow the Sun death/doom roughly six minutes into closer “Dark Clouds,” and the song plods along at an agonizingly satisfying pace; slow and visceral. What Silent Ruins: (Secret) Redemption Part I does at its best moments is make you raise your fist in the air without realizing you’re doing it. You do it when they come out of the Opeth-style acoustic/heavy switch 3:48 into “Hollow Shrine” and you do it as the stomach-churning growls usher the record to its finish. Fortunately it is not an action dependent on tempo.
Traditional doom heads who’ve not yet caught up to Isole‘s wintry mix will want to check out the I Hate material before the prices for all things out-of-print get even more absurd, but Silent Ruins is a suitable starting point for any and all explorers. The record is far from accessible in a commercial sense, but has nearly everything a fan of the grand and slow-moving metals could want from such a young, surprisingly prolific band.
Tags: Isole, Napalm Records, Sweden, True doom