For some artists, it takes a while for them to hit their stride. It’s cool, everyone’s got their own speed or method, and in most cases, the mistakes or missed opportunities along the way make for a legitimate opportunity for reflection. There may be hints of what’s to come, there may be some trial and error with finding strengths and weaknesses. There may be, for whatever reason, underdeveloped ideas that merely scratch the surface of potential. Whatever the case, it makes it extra rad when something can hits all the right spots on the first go. Heavy gazing Brazillian six piece Isaurian do just that with their debut, Chains of Blue.
Those who’ve come around to Hum as of late can find a similar affinity for a melody-forward kind of heavy mellow on Chains of Blue, but Isaurian offers a certainly more emotionally invested and volatile take. Additionally, Isaurian have largely abandoned their industrial inclinations from their earlier work. Some relics of this past exist through a handful of synthesized accents, but the keys’ shift to an acoustic palette works much better with the slower, more deliberate vision on this outing. It’s a logical change as Isaurian also dialed back on much of their riffier aspects of their prior records, too. They expertly pick their points to bring the thick end on Chains. Not only does this make them hit quite a bit harder when they come around, but it also plays into the somber vibe of the record, helping to regulate both pace and intensity (dig the accenting chugs in “Constant Glow” or the goth-tinged “Dead Garden”). No question Isaurian can match the louder crests of contemporaries like Cloakroom or Planning for Burial, though they move with significantly more fluidly as their post-rock inclinations take hold of each dirge-to-be and efficiently usher in the next passage. They really hit the sweet spot at the five-minute mark (and hit it often), creating a simultaneously swift and thorough feel on each track.
There’s quite a bit of breathing room on Chains of Blue, and it allows the band to open up in many new ways. Most noticeably, the addition of vocalist Hoanna Aragaão incorporates a lot of interesting vocal interplay. The vocal interplay between Aragão and guitarist/vocalist Jorge Rabelo make for some truly special moments. His timbre is warm and robust, capable of making its way into vulnerable territories, but capable of more robust moments that necessitate an open-throated roar (as in the seismic, ISIS-y “Reaching Hand”). Aragão complements him perfectly, offsetting his often more gentle approach with a powerful command not unlike Helms Alee’s Dana James (see opener “Vanity Mirror”). She can certainly hold her own (as on the closing title track), but in tandem with Rabelo, they intertwine in evocative and beautiful ways. As mentioned earlier, the more natural sounds of the keys and sparsity in which they’re used offer a similar complement, often serving as a nice melodic counterpoint or ambient undercurrent (see “Pythoness” or “Dead Garden”). The growth beyond the Jesu-favored blend on their earlier work makes everything feel so much more expansive and full of possibility.
It also helps that Chains of Blue’s sequencing is totally on point. The album flow will keep listeners on their toes as each piece has its own distinct identity that can hook listeners from different angles than . Not only is this exemplary of their songwriting ability, but more importantly, it keeps the modest pace from bogging down into drowsy -gaze tropes. Every track is intricate and beautiful, often reaching some poignant peaks that are distinguishing as they are heart wringing. To this point, the exceptional production bolsters these pillars. “Pythoness” casually slithers along before gradually building up into a dark crescendo that manages to escalate beyond it’s pseudo climax. Not every peak peak is maximized, nor are the passages leading up to them left desolate. Each instrument consistently finds voice and clarity even at their most layered (dig that epic chorus in “To the Shore“) or dense (“Reaching Hands”). Sunnier tracks like “Constant Glow” capture that 90s feel much in the way of Nothing, hinting at a borderline anthemic chorus without going the route of a full-fledged pop hook. The soft, atmospheric jaunt of “The Oceans” and the gentler, strummy post rock build of “With Solace” lend welcome glimmers from the album’s more regular, dour (yet hopeful) depths.
Chains of Blue is an impressive debut. The developed arrangements speak volumes about Isaurian’s potential, but what’s more is how they’ve crafted a rock solid artistic vision that feels novel at a time when shoegaze is getting tossed into the fold of just about every genre. Where some bands have occasionally dabbled in the intersections of heavy gaze, post-rock, and gothic doom, Isaurian have made this their home, sacrificing none of the subtleties or power found therein and maximizing their melodic interplay. Rarely do bands relish in this kind of tasteful restraint. Instead of dramaticizing the disparity between their mellow, miniscule facets and their monolithic and magnificent passages, Isaurian dynamically underscore the gradients between with great effect, culminating in a beautiful, dark, and enchanting debut – a can’t-miss.
Grab a copy of Chains of Blue via Isaurian’s Bandcamp today.