I remember the first time “Post-Metal” was ever mentioned to me. It sounded obscure, like some weird life form that grows on a planet in a different universe. How could a genre be “post-” anything? It never made sense to me, and still doesn’t. To me post-metal is just a thing where songs are longer, lyrics are shorter, and it builds and builds to an epic climax. However many people just like to associate music and lyrics together, such as the case with pop music: it has a good beat you can dance to, and fun lyrics you can sing. With Post-Metal, however, these two groups are separate, which always seems to cause a rift between fans of metal.
I was a member of the lyric group, and I still am to this day. I have always loved the ability of a musician to convey their thoughts adequately through a song and make it work with the music. This is part of the reason I love Tool so much, whom I have talked about in this column before. Maynard has always had a special way with words, especially with emotional songs like ’10,000 Days’ and ‘Prison Sex’, which everyone knows are very personal topics for him. It was actually Tool who introduced me to Isis in a roundabout way. I picked up the limited edition Revolver Magazine that was all about Tool, and in the back it had a section where the “guitar wizards of Isis” interviewed some of the band members about their music, lyrics, the army, etc. I figured any band interviewing Tool must be a pretty amazing band, considering Tool themselves held them in such a high regard. I decided to check them out.
I went online and searched “Isis” on Google, and the first video it gave me was ‘In Fiction.’ I listened all the way through, then said, “Well that was a waste of 8 minutes.” At the time, it just seemed to take forever and a day to build up, then had six lines of lyrics, then took forever to end. I figured, “Okay, I’ll try another song.” I chose the song ‘Backlit’ next, and was thoroughly unimpressed. After hearing the same thing again, I gave up. I abandoned all thoughts of Isis and left them behind, next to all the other bands that were nothing special. Then something miraculous happened.
Somehow, about nine months later, out of nowhere, the physical album appeared inside of an Amazon box. I realized that I had ordered the wrong album (though I don’t understand how it happened). Originally, I was pissed off, but due to my complete lack of enthusiasm for doing returns of any kind, I just thought I could try to sell it to someone. I took it into the music store by me offering to sell it, when my friend Glen behind the counter told me “Yo, why are you sellin’ this?! It’s a GREAT RECORD!” I didn’t understand, but I trust his musical opinion more than anyone else, so I took it home and put on the headphones once again, expecting the worst. But what I found was magical.
I finally understand why I didn’t get the album before: the album is a story. You can’t just pick up a good book and start from page 150 and read to page 175 then judge it; it’s taken out of context, with no background, no information to go on. No characters are introduced, no plot develops, and they all just become words on a page. It’s the same story with Isis. You don’t just listen to one of their tracks; you listen to all of them. It’s a very connective, collective way of listening. Hearing each song flow into each other so gracefully is something that every music fan can enjoy. Adding some nice bass effects and layered guitars also helps.
This record is a career-defining record for me. From start to finish it is a collection of seven perfect post-metal songs. It remains my favorite Isis album and even my favorite Post-Metal album ever. Luckily for me, I am able to fully enjoy this record, as I make many a long drive to do various things. This is one of the few records that I listen to all the time; start to finish, with no breaks. This record is deserving of a whole-hearted listen, from a real dedicated fan. And the lyrics, while succinct, carry an emotional weight that is nearly impossible to achieve with only 4 lines. Aaron Turner does in 4 lines what Shakespeare took 100 pages to do, and yes, I compare the two because both created beautiful works of poetry but in radically different lengths.
Discovering this album was one of the greatest things to happen to me. It helped push my poetry writing to new heights; it helped me gain a better understanding for the instruments, which are used on this record to create stories, not be flamboyantly over the top. It also gave me a greater appreciation for music as a whole. These guys laid the foundation for many bands that have come after them, and have given us some of the best music out there. I was never able to see them before their break up in 2010, and I’ll always be upset about it. But one thing I know is for sure: we still have the records.