Wavering Radiant CD (2009)

Artist: Isis

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The music of ISIS is a suitable metaphor for their twelve-year career: patient, meticulous, fraught with tension and gradually building towards an apex of seismic proportions. From the hypnotically bludgeoning down-tuned riffs of their early years to the gracefully sprawling passages on their pivotal sophomore album Oceanic and continuing through the intricate rhythmic textures and increased melody of 2006's In The Absence of Truth, ISIS have successfully navigated the process of growing and evolving without disavowing their initial vision.

There is no consensus among ISIS' cult-like fan base as to which album serves as the ultimate document of their art. Each record is a piece in the puzzle. Consequently, to brand their latest offering, Wavering Radiant, as the pinnacle of their achievements would be folly. Yet it's a tempting proclamation. The factors that defined ISIS in the past are still present, but the band manipulates its tactics and strategies with a refined sense of purpose and a heightened knack for nuance. They've extrapolated on the polar nature of their music. It's simultaneously their most challenging and accessible music to date. While Wavering Radiant is finely structured, dynamically varied, and melodically developed, it's also unpredictable, expansive, and densely layered. Every ISIS endeavor is an active listening experience -- requiring an aficionado's ear for subtlety and a scholar's grasp of the larger picture, but Wavering Radiant manages to provide instant gratification while also harnessing the slow burn of a classic, revealing the full extent of its mysteries only after repeated listens.

Rare is the record that finds the individual players as compelling as the sum of their parts, and ISIS has achieved just that. While the monolithic guitars of Aaron Turner and Michael Gallagher remain a primary fixture in the ISIS soundscape, the dueling instrumentalists continue to develop and expand upon their interplay. Together they evoke the emotional range of Wagner: brooding, triumphant, vengeful, and morose. Aaron Turner's vocals are more prominent than ever. But in keeping with the egalitarian nature of their art, the vocals continue to serve as flourishes rather than a focal point. Clifford Meyer's multi-instrumentation duties play a stronger role this time around as well. His atmospheric textures are still present, but he unlocks new horizons for the band with Fender Rhodes, electric organ, and the occasional psychedelic guitar lead. Jeff Caxide's bass playing still covers a broad spectrum, from providing melodic counterpoints to the guitars to conjuring Peter Hook's chorused bass leads. Wavering Radiant finally gives Caxide his due, allowing his various approaches to further accentuate the music's shifting moods while anchoring the melodies into the formidable rhythm section. And here drummer Aaron Harris once again shows his expansive depth in technique and ability. From esoteric tabla passages to authoritative syncopated punctuations, Harris transcends the basic metronomic function of the drum set to imbue the percussive element of the band with a heightened sense of drama and power. Wavering Radiant finds every component of the ISIS armory coming into equal play.

Grandiose without being over-indulgent, epic without compromising focus, ISIS have resurrected the art of prioritizing the album over the individual songs. Wavering Radiant, though divided into seven pieces, is essentially one composition. It's difficult to listen to the record without feeling the ghost of an era in rock music where musicians weren't afraid to take chances, weren't concerned with pandering to short attention spans, and weren't compelled compact their material into a radio-friendly format. With producer Joe Barresi (Queens of the Stone Age, Melvins, Enslaved) behind the boards, the recording displays a sonic range and tonal depth in perfect step with the broad range of the band's capabilities. This is an audiophile's dream: rich in headphone candy, goose-bump inducing in its crescendos, majestic in its beauty, humbling in its devastating power. If radio still exists in 30 years, Wavering Radiant is the kind of record that obsessive DJs will play in its entirety during their graveyard shifts. But the huddled mass of ISIS enthusiasts are already celebrating its arrival.


Label Ipecac/fontana
SKU 210904621
UPC 689230011323
UPC 14 00689230011323
Format CD
Release Date 5/5/2009
Author Isis
ReviewSource Pitchfork
Review Pin a single label, style, adjective on Isis and it slips right off. They seem immune. For more than a decade, the Los Angeles five-piece has maneuvered between cries and whispers, dirt and polish, bruising noise and narcotic subtlety, repeatedly redrawing the borders of the one genre that accommodates them, metal, as they annex more sonic territory beyond it. This means trading metal's usual symphony of downtuned riffs for a broader set of digressions and moods: On new album Wavering Radiant, these self-professed Fennesz and Pink Floyd devotees have turned often-drab contemporary guitar rock into music flush with fresh emotions and ideas-- a triumph that owes to the casual restraint of Joe Barresi's production. Moving away from the analytic approach favored by longtime Isis producer Matt Bayles, collecting the entire band in one place, and writing without a deadline has lent Radiant a sense of completeness and unity that recalls album-rock's golden years...Track for track, Wavering Radiant is the smartest and richest record in Isis' catalog: Here they manage not just to build on, but also to inventively weld together, their past work into one interlocking whole. Naysayers who cast off In the Absence of Truth as too subdued ought to don their headphones again: There was a sense of fastidious craft and atmosphere that may take repeated spins to sink in. And the same goes for the far superior Wavering Radiant. Easily the band's most accessible effort, hipsters and headbangers will likely agree it's also their most intricately imagined. To luxuriate in the details, to fully receive the melodies and tones and the bewildering interplay of every element, Isis demand not merely active, not athletic, but something like Olympic listening.
Reviewer Roque Strew
ReviewRating 8
ReviewSource No Ripcord
Review When Mastodon's Blood Mountain reached my ears a couple years ago, the album's potential for crossover appeal was very clear. Even in spite of its complexity and time signature heft, Blood Mountain had riffs for rock fans, speed for punk fans, mathematics for prog fans and balls behind it all. With Wavering Radiant, fifth album from post-metal progenitors, ISIS, the potential for crossover runs similarly prevalent, but only within the context or category of "music fan."...As snobbish as that may sound, you have to lose yourself in Wavering Radiant to hear and feel the big picture. There are elements at play that suggest and recall past eras of musical exploration and attention to detail in terms of rock, metal or progressive genres, not in a "jam" sense but in a very tight and careful sculpting of the material. ISIS immerses themselves in either concentrated crescendos or prolonged demonstrations of six-string articulation, which is common as far as progressive music is typically concerned. But, sensitivity takes precedence over mathematics and ISIS knows how to convey said sensitivity while maintaining a degree of power...As compelling a listen as Wavering Radiant is, it's also the type of album that will alienate anyone that seeks immediate gratification. Consider it as a whole, or not at all. Without a bullet to boast, or an accessible enticement for magnetizing the uninitiated, Wavering Radiant is the exploratory result of a band whose album is the focus, which is something "music fans" really appreciate these days.
Reviewer Sean Caldwell
ReviewRating 7
Product Attributes
Artist Isis
Music Format Compact Disc
Andrew Rennie, NOW Magazine Close to perfect.
Joe Davenport, Delusions of Adequacy ...a testament to ISIS' ability to stare into the face of adversity, unflinching, and deliver one of the finest albums of its career.
Matthew Cole, Slant Magazine ...the band excels at transforming emotions into thrilling sounds, palpable awe, and tangible dread. This is metal played at its arresting best.
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