The most common feedback we get from our readers about this site and why they continue to follow us (aside from our dashing good looks, obviously) is that they come to us to find out about bands new and old they might have otherwise never been introduced to. We pride ourselves on being able to act as a human music recommendation service to all of you, which is why we already have features like our very popular Listen To This! series of columns. When thinking about ways we could take this further though, we came upon the idea for this column. For Fans Of is essentially a distillation of this in its purest form.
The concept is simple. We take one very well-known and popular band that our writers and readers are fans of, and then we write about a small group of lesser-known bands that do similar things and who we think you all might like as well and give a listen to. So, for example, in this case we’ve chosen ISIS (more on them in a second). We would not recommend a band like Pelican because the assumption is that almost any fan of ISIS is going to know Pelican well already (and if you don’t, what are you even doing reading this instead of listening to Pelican?). These are not meant to be exhaustive lists, and it’s quite possible many of you will be already familiar with at least a few of these bands. But we hope that this serves as an appropriate jumping-off point for many of you and that you can find at least one new band you were not already listening to.
Okay? Okay! So, before diving in, let’s talk about ISIS for a second. ISIS are one of those bands who managed to form a genre all by themselves, shining bright and black in the community skies. Sure, they built on existing sounds set forth by Mono or Red Sparrowes but at the end of the day, you can always hit play on an ISIS track and know it’s them. No one delivers the same spaced out heavyness, that churning depth between the vocals and the guitars or the same depressive tinge to almost every single they’ve done. With the band releasing several remasters in the past year, we were reminded of exactly how seminal their albums were. It’s without a doubt when we say that post metal owes ISIS its conception and its widespread popularity now days.
That’s more than enough set up. Here are our hand-picked recommendations for fans of ISIS! If there are any bands you’d add to the list, sound off in the comments!
Amia Venera Landscape
I’ll admit that I originally bought Amia Venera Landscape’s debut album because it was on sale on iTunes and the cover art looked cool. To say I was unprepared for what was in store would be an understatement. Amia Venera Landscape fuse doom, post-metal, hardcore and noise rock so effortlessly it’s breathtaking, and never feels forced or contrived. Their debut album, The Long Procession, flows like the music is alive, taking the best elements of of post-metal, not only from ISIS but from genre patriarchs Neurosis, and mating it to hardcore sensibilities, especially in the vocals, and the screeching, breathless violence of noise rock, all flowing together into one greater whole. The band has garnered some well-deserved critical acclaim and word-of-mouth, but the band have been quiet recently in spite of the clamoring for a new album. It’s been five years, but whatever they choose to do, it’ll be interesting to see how they top an album like their debut.
Recommended Album: The Long Procession
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I only recently discovered Salt Lake City’s Huldra, but once I did, I was amazed at how much they are able to emulate the inimitable ISIS while retaining a sound and sonic ambience that is all their own. Like ISIS, Huldra are masters of atmosphere and composition, often building upon a simple musical idea until reaching a dramatic and sweeping crescendo, during which goosebumps poke their heads out and shivers slither their way down your spine. The striking balance between sludgy riffs and spacier passages cannot be compared to any band other than ISIS, although the vocal melodies achieved by Matt Brotherton and Levi Hanna also call to mind the work of Intronaut. The band has two exceptional LPs under their belt, but of the two, Black Tides showcases the band at their finest, and was a sleeper hit from last year. The band also managed to get all of the lovely ladies from the great SubRosa to do guest vocals and play violin on a few of the songs on Black Tides, which only increases the quality of the package. Both of Huldra’s albums are available on their Bandcamp page for a “name your price” fee, so there’s really no excuse for you to not listen to these excellent followers of the almighty ISIS.
Recommended Album: Black Tides
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What is the distilled essence of ISIS as a band? For some, it’s their sludgy, pounding anger, irascible and always twisting through thick riffs and bellows. For others, however, its their total command of atmosphere. Rarely does one see a band with the same level of sheer prowess in creating lush, full soundscapes, and very few can do it in a similar minimalistic fashion. Kopf Hoch, a German ambient post-rock band, accomplishes this feat with flying colors. Across 3 tracks, spanning a total of 45 minutes, their album Good Afternoon, Gentlemen is the logical progression of ISIS’s work, combining the light and airy textures of Wavering Radiant and the wandering, existential nature of Panopticon into a fluid one-two punch of grandeur and brilliance. The power packed within these songs, from the opening of ‘140628’ (a truly Panopticon-esque intro) to the final strains of ‘Kaleidoskop’, is immense and constantly looming above. This monolithic release emphasizes and packs the essence of ISIS’s sound- their fluid and twisting progressions, their nostalgia-tinged compositions, and, most importantly, their omnipresent sense of atmosphere — into a 45-minute spaced-out package of joyous soundscapes.
Recommended Album: Good Afternoon, Gentlemen (Free download! Get on this!)
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Australia has been coming out with great music since the early 1970s, but recently the area has experienced an explosion of prog. However, The Matador are no prog band. They combine super heavy, distorted guitars with some beautifully screamed and even sometimes sung vocals that creates a tone reminiscent to the almighty Isis. The band have been around for a few years now, and with their most recent album (which I reviewed here), they’ve expanded upon their sound to give us some masterful Australian post-metal. The band are willing to admit that ISIS plays a role, but even more willing to admit that they’re their own band with their own sound, and after one listen, you’ll soon be able to understand that they’re right, and the sound is massive, and meant to be played at full volume.
Recommended Album: Descent Into The Maelstrom
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Revisiting Minsk is a damn good idea right now, seeing as the band are planned to release an album very soon. It will be their first since 2009 and I for one am damn excited about it. Minsk deliver a more bareback, minimalistic version of the post-metal sound established by ISIS: the crushing feeling of the latter’s riffs are replaced by haunting synths and a vocal approach which leaves the listener more frightened or depressed than overwhelmingly demolished. The approach to production can be lacking in parts, a fact I’m hoping the new release will amend, but Minsk are still a go to band for any fan of ISIS. I find them to be much more refreshing and varied in the way they deliver the difficult emotional landscape of post-metal and thus even transcend at points their forefathers in the genre. Make sure to approach this album with a clear mind however: it’s not straight up ISIS worship and you won’t find many of the key elements associated now-days with post metal. Think of Minsk as an alternate universe version of ISIS. It’s similar but a few cardinal elements are out of place.
Recommended Album: With Echoes In The Movements of Stones
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Mouth of the Architect
For sixty six minutes, Mouth of the Architect‘s sophomore record The Ties That Blind churns on with patience and purpose. It’s not an easily accessible album at first but there’s enough layering and complexity to keep the listener coming back with hope of breaching this seemingly impenetrable wall of sound. The raspy vocals are sparsely used and are never loud enough to take over the entire sound. The guitars come together on many occasions to construct melodies with complex chord arrangements the end up being surprisingly memorable. The drumming is intense and purposeful while maintaining a solid foundation with the thumping bass lines.
The utter despair of ‘No One Wished to Settle Here’ and ‘Wake Me When It’s Over’ will seep through the headphone and cast a doomy, overarching darkness while ‘Harboring an Apparition’ and ‘At Arm’s Length’ provide more dynamic passages and minimalistic lyrics. This album also has the uncanny ability of enveloping one’s consciousness and transforming in a natural setting; the Red Sea and its mountains have produced amazing results. This is an essential addition to any thinking man’s metal library. Mouth of the Architect released their debut in 2004, the same year when Isis had already reached unparalleled heights with the genre-defining Panopticon, but it was The Ties That Blind where they really hit their creative stride.
Recommended Album: The Ties That Blind
Aly Hassab El Naby
The Pax Cecilia
While none of The Pax Cecilia’s immediate influences include ISIS, the end result evokes moods similar to Celestial and Oceanic, albeit with a more organic sound. Essentially, what the band’s 2007 swansong conjures is a sonic conglomeration of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s classical musings, maudlin of the Well & Kayo Dot’s avant-garde eccentricities and Circle Take the Square’s raw delivery. Through all of this, The Pax Cecilia accomplish what ISIS so effortlessly exemplified: musical beauty that consumes with emotional ferocity but never loses its genuine nature. Considering the aforementioned descriptions/comparisons and the fact that Blessed are the Bonds is available free of charge, any ISIS fan (or post-metal aficionado in general) would be foolish not to add The Pax Cecilia to their library.
Recommended Album: Blessed Are the Bonds (Free download on their website!)
Steak Number Eight
As a band of ISIS-worshipping Belgian teenagers, Steak Number Eight‘s early work showed guts, heft and plenty of misdirected angst, but in 2013 they released The Hutch and everything changed. The presence of Matt Bayles at the mixing desk should tick the first box for ISIS fans, yet it is the music that lies within that will seal the deal. There are luminescent flourishes hidden within thick sludge, patches of rich, thunderous guitar squall, slack-jawed vocals, rotational riffs and dark melodious washes to drown in. Constantly shifting, the band weave in new elements; layering up as they progress. The post-metal meandering of the sublime ‘Pilgrimage Of A Black Heart’ feeds the muscle of ‘Exile Of Our Marrow’ and, before you know it, they’re piling malcontent upon disillusionment; sharpening the visceral edges for ‘The Shrine’ and ‘Slumber’. These sudden, thrusting, sharp stabs finally relent to reveal a sonic wasteland for the masterful ‘Ashore’ and the brain flips once more. For a final trick, you will hear young men exercising phenomenal restraint to allow ‘Tearwalker”s one-key rolling maul of tones and textures to run every second of its nine-and-a-half minute course. If you loved ISIS, Stk8 might just floor you, literally.
Recommended Album: The Hutch