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Oceanic

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Album Review

Oceanic is the next logical step for Isis after the ugly, grandiose Celestial, the Aaron Turner-led outfit's second full-length looking simultaneously inward and outward, reaching into the nether regions of outer space while still keeping its feet firmly earthbound. Yes, it's an ambitious record, one that isn't immediately consumed and digested — rather, it consumes and digests the listener with grand and hypnotic waves of sound. Songs blur together as aggressive, post-hardcore guitar riffery trades with lengthy, meditative bouts of electronic exploration, a technique that would result in plodding, pretentious mush in less capable hands. Instead, Oceanic successfully mirrors the dense, unimaginable power of its namesake, combining the minimalist metallic art of Godflesh with the bipolar mood swings and Black Sabbath muscle of West Coast brethren Neurosis. Turner's deathcore growl-shouts serve to puncture the instrumental tension that balloons slowly and painstakingly inflates throughout the album's 63 minutes, with ex-Dirt Merchants singer Maria Christopher occasionally drifting hazily into the arrangements. "Weight," at nearly 11 minutes, doesn't necessarily move as much as it evolves toward its goal, starting with lazy, but purposeful, melodic whale songs before logically concluding with Christopher's repetitive dub vocal and a droning organ suggesting spiritual rebirth. Only Isis could get away with writing hardcore hymns about the inevitability of elemental forces and pull it off with such conviction and attention to detail. The album may initially seem to exist in hazy head space, but clarity comes with further submergence, assuming you're willing to lay back and float, letting the water take you into both conscious and subconscious realms. Oceanic is a masterfully complex symphony of majestic noise and melody, an all-consuming trip into the earth and mind that defies genre and, often, description — simply put, a triumph.

Biography

Formed: 1997 in Boston, MA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Although rooted heavy metal and the punk/hardcore aesthetic, Isis' music relies just as heavily on ambience, atmosphere, and tone as it does complexity and aggression. Not so much a band per se as a musical collective, the members of the Boston-based quintet layer their compositions with feedback, power chords, quiet/loud dynamics, and vocals that are sometimes shouted, frequently screamed, and occasionally sung. The band was formed by Hydra Head Records owner Aaron Turner, who was hoping to combine...
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Oceanic, Isis
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