Buried Treasure: Isis, Celestial Pre-Release Version

Posted in Buried Treasure on June 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ve done my absolute best these last six months or so to buy as little music as humanly possible. As I’ve lost jobs and seen my income go from what it was last year at this time to half that, to less than half that, to nothing, it’s felt like the very least I can do to stop scrolling through online shops or thumb my way through record bins trying just basically looking for one more thing to own. Just out of fairness to The Patient Mrs., if the actual financial concern isn’t enough. I won’t lie: I’ve missed it. And it hasn’t been easy. Between new stuff that’s come out in the last year — I’ve got a running list on a post-it note on my wall and it goes back a ways by now — and the joy of actually going to a store and finding something used I never expected to see and sometimes didn’t even remember I wanted, I’ve felt like something that I used to really enjoy, I can no longer do because I don’t have the money to spend.

At least I ever did, right? I’m not saying I’ve got it tougher than anyone — ever — because basically I don’t. My point is that when I ran into the pre-release version of Isis‘ 2000 full-length debut, Celestial, yesterday at Armageddon Shop in Boston, it was something I knew I shouldn’t buy. I knew it was there. They had three of them at one point — Celestial, 1998′s preceding Mosquito Control (it might’ve been The Red Sea) and 2001′s subsequent SGNL>05 EPs — and I had seen them a few months back last time I was in the store, in the case at the counter in a small box of oddly-shaped or rare CDs. You have to ask to look. Yesterday, after perusing the wall of discs and feeling positive about a three-dollar copy of Cavity‘s On the Lam, I decided to take another gander at the Isis discs. I knew what they were, I didn’t imagine they were gone, and I knew how much they cost: $29.99. Not cheap for anything at this point, let alone an album I’ve already owned for more than a decade.

I suppose I could say that it was the fact that Mosquito Control was gone from the box that called me to action in buying Celestial – getting both that and SGNL>05 would’ve been absolutely out of the question, and given the choice, I’ll take the full-length — and maybe that was a factor, but the root of it was more that I miss buying records. I miss going to a store, picking up something like this and delighting at the prospect of making it mine. I wanted it. It was overpriced, but the inside liner confirms that, indeed, there were only 40 of them made (mine is number 24), and put out by Escape Artist Records in advance of the album itself. Yeah, the cover art hijacked from the self-titled Godflesh EP was also a factor, my enjoyment of that blatant acknowledgement of influence made only more fervent by knowing they used the same cover for these versions of the other releases as well. All three sitting there, daring anyone who’d look at them to recognize that face.

That’s not to take away from the impact of Celestial sonically. I think we’re probably still a couple years too close to post-metal’s overexposure — bands taking no small measure of influence from Isis‘ largely unfuckwithable first three long-players; Celestial, 2002′s Oceanic and 2004′s Panopticon — and just hammering those ideas into the ground, but Celestial still remains about as close to “atmospheric sludge” as anyone has ever come, an aggression metered out across varied, lurching cuts like “Deconstructing Towers” and the later “Collapse and Crush” interspersed with ambient interludes titled to maximize a theme that would soon enough tie in with the follow-up EP. A breath-stealing undertaking at over 51 minutes, the pre-release version advises, “Listen to this goddamm (sic) thing the whole way through for best results,” but with a record as densely packed and, at times, vicious as Celestial was at the time, they weren’t by any means making it easy. Then based on the East Coast, Isis were a direct answer to the Bay Area’s Neurosis at their most unbridled, and while their musical paths would diverge, that influence, as well as that of Godflesh, would remain a typifying factor throughout much of Isis‘ career, for better or worse.

So yeah, Celestial crushes, and it still crushes, and between that and the added nerdout factor of the swiped artwork, the limited release and my own wistfulness at the thought of leaving it there again, I picked it up. I won’t say I don’t feel guilty, because money really is tighter than would allow for such things, but cash comes and goes and this is mine now.

Got that Cavity too, so right on.

Isis, Celestial (2000)

Armageddon Shop

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Isis: Celestial Reissue Coming July 9 on Ipecac

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s a short list of albums released in this young century that have been more influential in the heavy underground than IsisCelestial. As spent as the post-metal breadth can seem at times, the band — who were then based in Boston and are now defunct — cast a wide net with their first three albums and their slew of EPs, live albums, and a lot of bands got caught up in it.

I didn’t know Celestial was out of print, I guess I hadn’t really thought about it, but with more than a decade past since its release and some apparent scarcity in the physical realm, it’s probably worth getting it back out there to be appreciated all over again.

Celestial is out July 9 on Ipecac. The PR wire has details:

ISIS REISSUE CELESTIAL ON JULY 9

RE-MASTERED RELEASE FEATURES NEW ARTWORK

ISIS reissue their landmark full-length debut, Celestial, on July 9 via Ipecac Recordings.

The hard to find and long out-of-print release will be reissued with new artwork from Aaron Turner as well as the audio having been recently remastered by James Plotkin.

Celestial track listing:
1. SGNL>01
2. Celestial (The Tower)
3. Glisten
4. Swarm Reigns (Down)
5. SGNL>02
6. Deconstructing Towers
7. SGNL>03
8. Collapse and Crush
9. C.F.T. (New Circuitry and Continued Evolution)
10. Gentle Time
11. SGNL>04 (End Transmission)

www.facebook.com/pages/ISIS/158503560864483
http://www.isistheband.com/

Isis, Celestial (2000)

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Where to Start: Post-Metal

Posted in Where to Start on October 20th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

At this point, the subgenre’s trend level has crested and most of what the specific style of music has to offer has likely been explored, but although it gets the ol’ eye-roll “not this again” treatment these days, it’s worth remembering that post-metal has produced some great, landmark albums, and that the bands who came after had solid reasoning behind being influenced as they were.

Blending post-rock elements with heavier, often crushing guitar work, the classification post-metal is as amorphous as any genre term. I’ve heard everyone from High on Fire to Ulver referred to under its umbrella, but I want to be clear that when I talk about post-metal, I’m thinking of what’s also commonly called “metalgaze,” the specific branch of metal heavily inspired by the bands below.

I wanted to do this Where to Start post not just for those looking to expose themselves to the genre, but also in case anyone who maybe is tired of hearing bands that sound like this has forgotten how killer these records were. Here’s my starting five essential post-metal albums, ordered by year of release:

1. Godflesh, Godflesh (1988): I saw the album art on hoodies for years before I knew what it was. 1989′s Streetcleaner was better received critically at the time for its industrial leanings, but Justin Broadrick‘s first outing after leaving Napalm Death has grown over time to be the more influential album. At just 30 minutes long in its original form (subsequent reissues would add bonus material), it’s a pivotal moment in understanding modern post-metal that predates most of the genre’s major contributions by over a decade.

2. Neurosis, A Sun That Never Sets (2001): Take a listen to A Sun That Never Sets closer “Stones from the Sky,” then go put on just about any post-metal record, and you’ll see many of them trying to capture the same feel and progression — if not just blatantly transposing that riff onto their own material. Say what you want about Neurosis‘ earlier material, I think if everyone was honest about it, it would be A Sun That Never Sets mentioned even more. An awful lot of the modern wave of post-metal bands formed in 2001 and 2002, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

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Isis Call it Quits; Announce New EP and Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 19th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

There are numerous reactions I could have to the following announcement that Isis has broken up. Here is a sampler:

There’s the snide: “That’s about five years too late.”

There’s the sad: “Well that’s a bummer, they did some great work (and they did).”

The realistic: “See you in three years, guys.”

The observant: “Funny how they say they want the music to do the talking in the middle of one of the biggest paragraphs I’ve ever seen.”

The critical: “They must have gotten tired of always being second fiddle to Neurosis.”

And the fanboy: “Oh nooooooooooes!!!!111!!!!!1!!”

However you feel about them, there’s no denying that a couple Isis albums have had a huge influence on the metal that’s come since, and on that level, it’s too bad to hear they won’t be making music together anymore. On the other hand, this is by no means the saddest news I’ve heard this week, so perhaps I’m just taking it with levity because everything’s relative. Whatever the case, here’s the statement from the band via the PR wire:

ISIS has reached an end. It’s hard to try to say it in any delicate way, and it is a truth that is best spoken plainly. This end isn’t something that occurred overnight and it hasn’t been brought about by a single cataclysmic fracture in the band. Simply put, ISIS has done everything we wanted to do, said everything we wanted to say. In the interest of preserving the love we have of this band, for each other, for the music made and for all the people who have continually supported us, it is time to bring it to a close. We’ve seen too many bands push past the point of a dignified death and we all promised one another early on in the life of the band that we would do our best to ensure ISIS would never fall victim to that syndrome. We’ve had a much longer run than we ever expected we would and accomplished a great deal more than we ever imagined possible. We never set any specific goals when the band was founded other than to make the music we wanted to hear and to play (and to stay true to that ideal), so everything else that has come along the long and winding path has been an absolute gift. As with any momentous life-changing decision (which this certainly is for the five of us), we feel a very dynamic range of emotions about this and cannot express all of it within the space of a few sentences, and perhaps it’s best to do what we’ve always done and let our music speak for us. It is and has been the truest expression of who we are as a collective and in some ways who we are as individuals for the 13 years in which we’ve been together. The last and perhaps most important thing we might say in relation to all this is how grateful we are for the people that have supported us over the years. It is a lengthy list that would include those who put out our records, those that played on them and put them to tape, the many bands with whom we shared the stage, all of our family, friends and companions who supported us in our individual lives and thus made it possible for us to continue on in the band, and most importantly those who truly listened to our music whether in recorded form or by coming to out to our shows (or both). It is quite true that we would never have done what we have without those people, that is many of you who are reading this. Our words can never fully express what we feel, but we hope that our music and the efforts made to bring it into being can serve as a more proper expression of gratitude for this life and for everyone in it. Thank you.

In more immediate and practical terms the tour we are about to embark upon is indeed our last. We are hoping that these final live rituals can help us bring a close to the life of this band in a celebratory and reverent way, and also provide us with a chance to say goodbye to many of those that have supported us over the years. While there is a measure of sadness that comes with the passing of this band, we hope that the final days can be joyous ones during which any and all that wish to come and join us will do so. It seems fitting that the last show of the tour and of our active existence will take place in Montreal, the site of the very first ISIS show in 1997 (though that was an unintentional move when booking the show initially). After the tour we also plan to follow through with other projects set in motion some time ago — pursuing the completion of a final EP, compiling live audio and visual material for future releases, and generally doing whatever we can to make our music available for as long as there are people who wish to hear it.

Thanks again to any and all,

ISIS, May 18 2010

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Isis Have a New Video. No, I Haven’t Watched it.

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Whathaveyou on November 11th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

In the interest of honesty and professional courtesy, I’m going to admit that I never listened to the last Isis record, Wavering Radiant. You’ll note it wasn’t reviewed here. That’s because I figured after 2006′s In the Absence of Truth, which I found to be phoned in and largely uninspired, the band didn’t have anything else to offer, and unless they underwent some radical change or progression, that was going to remain true for the duration.

That might sound harsh, but really, how many songs have Isis made in the last seven years with the exact same drum beat? I’m glad Aaron Turner learned how to sing, and I think he does it well, and I appreciate the influence Isis has had over the post-metal genre as second only to Neurosis, but anything they do at this point, they’re not going to be the first to do it. Neurosis is like The Simpsons to IsisSouth Park: “Simpsons did it.” Doesn’t mean South Park sucks, but it’s never going to be first.

And though I relished Oceanic and still think Panopticon is one of the best albums to come out this decade, my mind isn’t really open to what Isis are doing now. It’s simply lost my attention, and furthermore, nothing I’ve heard about Wavering Radiant or any of the reviews I’ve read have done much to change my mind. When I got the press release about their new video for the song “20 Minutes/40 Years,” yeah, I clicked on it and played the video, but I skipped my way through. From what I can tell, it looks like Tool. For the sake of fairness, here it is so you can make up your own mind.

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Making Amigos with M.G.R. y Destructo Swarmbots

Posted in Reviews on September 8th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Photos by Mike Gallagher, drawings by Aaron Turner. It's a family affair.Otherwise known as guitarist Mike Gallagher from Isis, M.G.R. (short for the Vonnegut-inspired moniker Mustard Gas and Roses) has been quietly releasing albums and collaborations since 2005?s Nova Lux premiered on Neurot. After allying with SirDSS for 2006?s Impromtu (also Neurot) and releasing Wavering on the Cresting Heft on Conspiracy in 2007, Gallagher and Destructo Swarmbots guitarist Mike Mare have combined their efforts to the end of Amigos de la Guitarra, released under the appropriate name ?M.G.R. y Destructo Swarmbots!

Since both the individual parties essentially make instrumental ambient music, the safest bet is that their collaboration will as well, and Amigos de la Guitarra doesn?t disappoint on that front. With just one 42-minute track, ?Amor en el Aire,? the album achieves a cohesive drone minimalism, offering bass and noise samples as fellow hypnotizers to the guitar. It won?t lull you to sleep, but neither is it booty-bumping or beer-swilling party music. That should go without saying.

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