// don’t look back, press on //
Seminal post-metal band Isis have lived on very favorably in their postmortem years despite sharing their name with the most hated organization in the world. Their disbandment left a perfect legacy in a discography free of blemishes, and while their 2009 swan song Wavering Radiant was their most accessible release and fared lighter with its extended use of clean singing and Tool-esque instrumental passages, it’s still highly regarded as a masterpiece and genre classic—a classic that for the last 6 years remained unobtainable to many fans who missed the early stages of the vinyl revival.
[bandcamp width=100% height=120 album=133407217 size=large bgcol=333333 linkcol=ffffff tracklist=false artwork=small]
Thankfully, the band noticed this vacancy and met the demand with a 2xLP deluxe vinyl remaster of Wavering Radiant, available in a number of variants available via the band’s official Merchtable store and indie distro Robotic Empire. Pre-orders went live back in December 2016 and began shipping out in February 2017. While the band’s Merchtable store quickly sold out, as of this writing, all four variants are currently in stock at Robotic Empire.
Here’s some of the pressing info, via Discogs:
– Clear/Yellow Splatter /450 (Band Exclusive)
– Blue/White Splatter /775
– Black/White Splatter /775
– Black /???
I purchased the Clear / Yellow Splatter variant, which was exclusive to the band at time of pre-order. It is currently listed as in stock at Robotic Empire, but is the only variant that imposes a limit of one per buyer, so if you’re on the fence about picking up the release, grab it right now for $25. I have a soft spot for colored pressings that compliment the artwork (see: Astronoid’s Air), and the clear / yellow splatter does just that with elegance.
The packaging on this release exceeded expectations. The stock of the gatefold is thick and glossy, making its presentation and feel substantial. Pirates Press handled the manufacturing of the physical release, and they always do quality work, so it’s not a surprise on that front, and seeing their “Made In CZ” sticker on the back of the outer sleeve was a positive affirmation of quality before even getting deep into the media. The inner sleeve is also is a heavier weight with an all-over print which beats the hell out of the generic white envelopes.
One aspect of the presentation that was pretty surprising was incorporating the protective sleeve as part of the proper artwork and packaging. A yellow sticker that displayed the stylized band and album name (as well as tracklist on the back) wraps around the sleeve, augmenting the artwork a bit and providing some semblance of depth. This is the first record I’ve purchased that utilized the art assets as part of the outer sleeve instead of promo stickers, so what would have otherwise been a generic and dispensable part of the packaging is now something that is inseparable from the overall presentation of the record. It’s a nice touch.
There are some things that keep this from being a perfect physical release though, minor as they are. The spine cuts off the album title at “WAVERING RADI” in such a way that appears to be accidental. The two LPs also do not appear to bear any immediately obvious indication of what “side” you’re listening to on the stickers, but you can peek at the etching towards the center of the record to find out. There’s also no indication of its 45 RPM playing speed anywhere on the records or in the packaging. I hate to admit it, but I haven’t heard Wavering Radiant in quite some time when this first arrived, and I managed to listen to a minute or two of slowed-down Isis on 33 RPM before noticing that something was up; Aaron Turner’s growls approaching the depth of death gutterals is what tipped me off, to be honest. Playing speed is important, folks.
Sonically, post-metal tends to suit the vinyl medium incredibly well, and Wavering Radiant is no exception. My speakers (Samson BT3s) are supposedly pretty bass-heavy though, and Wavering Radiant always had a prominent bass presence that is made all the more powerful by the remaster, so during the more introspective instrumental passages and dynamic lulls wherein bass is prominent, it can be fairly dominating. At a not-unreasonable volume, my house was shaking. If you’ve got an EQ in your signal chain somewhere, it might be helpful to cut some of the low end if you’ve got a bassy set-up and acoustic environment like me. It’s hard to account for the innumerable variety of setups out there, but the remaster from Mika Jussila (who is, uh, pretty prolific) hits the right spots otherwise. This is a dynamic style of music and a poor mastering job can kill the spirit of the record, and fortunately Wavering Radiant was placed in good hands.
Any gripes about this release are honestly just nit-picky and only stand out in contrast to the absolutely stellar quality of the presentation. Not even accounting for it being the only game in town for owning this classic in this medium, this edition of Wavering Radiant is a must have for fans of the sludge, prog, and post-metal.