Isis – Shining BrightlyFriday, 29th March 2013
(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)
They’ve spawned legions of copycat bands and with 2006’s In The Absence Of Truth they almost managed to trip themselves up. While not a bad album, it was the sound of Isis sitting still more so than moving forward. Previously,Oceanic (2002) and Panopticon (2004) were albums rich with ideas and sounds, delights for your ears, records that were designed to be listened to in full at a single sitting. Maybe they stumbled because they were working on too many other projects (everyone in Isis has at least one other band they writer/perform with) or maybe they were feeling the pressure. Either way, three years since the release of In The Absence Of Truth they’re back with a new full-length,Wavering Radiant and it once again sounds like they’re invigorated, brimming with ideas and new directions. Blistering.com caught up with Aaron Turner (guitar, vocals, artwork) via e-mail to find out more.
Blistering.com: Can you tell us a little about the writing and recording of Wavering Radiant? Was it all done in one chunk or how did the process go?
Aaron Turner: The writing of the album was stretched out over about two years time, though there were some breaks in between for a couple of short tours and such. The process was similar to that of our past albums which involved a number of different approaches: improvisational sessions where we’d work around one basic idea or two for a while and then try to extract the best bits from the mass and build around those extracts, making a basic foundation based on one persons individual parts and the rest of the band building off of that, one or two or three people in the band working out a basic template for a song and showing everyone else the parts, or some combination of these techniques. We also did a lot of demos throughout the course of writing the album which allowed us to more closely analyze the tracks and finesse the structures as well as our individual contributions.
Blistering.com: Did you feel under any pressure? Over the last few years, especially since the release of Panopticon Isis have grown a considerable fan base and are held in such high regard by other bands. Does this add an extra pressure?
Turner: Any extra pressure we felt was largely do to our own expectations rather than those of any exterior source. We have constantly pushed ourselves to write music that we find engaging and challenging and have always tried to avoid repetition of ideas. It’s hard to avoid the latter sometimes and we’re certainly guilty of it here and there, but as with any of our other albums I do feel the most recent one represents a step forward from where we were even just a couple of years ago. This was perhaps the most challenging album to complete, but the level of difficulty in terms of the writing process has been on a steady increase from the first album forwards without exception.
Blistering.com: Your press release points out that Bryant Clifford Meyer (electronics, along with guitar and vocals) and Jeff Caxide’s instruments (bass) play more of a role and you can definitely hear it on the album. How did this come about? Did you consciously decide to bring these more into play? It’s evident straight away on “Hall Of The Dead.” It adds an extra level of texture.
Turner: We’ve always tried to give equal voice to every instrument in the band, but to some degree guitars have always been the focal point or the building block off of which everything else has been made. In the early years of the band our music was very much centred around the basic component of the riff which didn’t leave a lot of room for much else. As our sound has developed texture and melody have become increasingly more important, and the role bass and keys have played in this development are crucial. It was not an overt decision to make this album more keyboard or bass driven by any means – it was just a natural occurrence.
Blistering.com: Are there any songs on Wavering Radiant that you’re looking forward to playing live?
Turner: At the moment we’re playing all of them live, and thus far there isn’t really one in the bunch that feels awkward or cumbersome to perform. Currently I’d say “Hand Of The Host” and “Threshold Of Transformation” are proving to be the most personally satisfying.
Blistering.com: Since the release of In The Absence Of Truth, you’ve all worked on other musical projects, was this beneficial when it came to writing/recording Wavering Radiant? Did it allow you to clear your heads of Isis for a while and come back with fresh ears?
Turner: We have all been involved in numerous projects outside of Isis since well before the band began and during its entire existence. Any other group that we perform in or project we are involved with in some way helps us grow as musicians, expanding our perspective on the possibilities in music, and the potentialities of working with other musicians or on our own. I can’t see how this could have anything but a beneficial effect on Isis. How exactly this outside work has effected Isis is hard to say and it differs from person to person within the band, but at the very least I think it’s safe to say that it has allowed us to evolve at a more rapid pace than would otherwise be possible.
Blistering.com: In The Absence Of Truth was criticised for sticking too closely to the formula you’d already perfected. It must be difficult being judged negatively for doing something (‘post-metal’) that you’re created with creating.
Turner: The opinions on what we do vary so wildly, and increasingly with each album that we do that it’s hard to take any of it too seriously. Some seem to think we’ve changed too much, others not enough. It’s impossible to please critics and a developed fan base so what others think of the music we make is generally of little concern. As far as us having contributed to the creation of a genre or sub-genre, I don’t know what to say to that, really. It does seem that there is a proliferation of bands with a similar sound or feel, but I think we feel confident enough about the musical persona we’ve carved out for ourselves that we’re not particularly worried about being lost in the shuffle.
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