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CD Feature/ Isis: "Wavering Radiant"; Constants: "The Foundation; The Machine; The Ascension"

img  Tobias

Some bands virtually have a slipstream of acts following in their wake. Isis is one of those formations acting as a creative catalyst for others. While they're deliberating their next move, their followers are anxiously awaiting the outcome. When they're silent, their disciples dare not speak a word. Wherever they decide to go, leagues of artists will follow. Less purveyors of a pure „Doom“-, „Drone Rock“- or „Metal“-philosophy than constituents of a veritable genre of their own, the quintet have steadily built their career through carefully honed studio albums, selective remix commissions, a preference for visually stunning artwork and live shows conveying a strong sense of community gatherings. The latter is taking on an increasingly seminal role for their records, as „Wavering Radiant“ now impressively demonstrates.

While the schedules of previous Isis-full-lengths were mostly restricted by the sometimes immense geographical distance between individual band members, „Wavering Radiant“ is the result of the entire cast writing songs, contributing riffs, fine-tuning textures and coming up with surprising arrangements within the same room. This organisational and creative immediacy has not only pushed the production of the album closer to their much-revered stage-sound, but also allowed for ideas developed in solo projects to seep in. Isis has always been an alloy formed by the headstrong will of its members and this process of integrating a plethora of influences has, if anything, only accelerated: Passages of insomniac ambient drift, tantric oriental harmonies, experimental sound art, psychedelic haze and raw Death metal furore have all found their way to the proceedings and created a style that is as dark as it is diverse.

This complete and utter openness has, however, not disrupted the flow of the album. Quite on the contrary, these up to ten minute long epics always retain their character as complex, yet intutively built compositions with a beginning, a phase of variations and a finale. This admirable aim is further supported by the most striking feature of „Wavering Radiant“, the absolute and overwhelming supremacy of the groove. The rhythmical pulse is not just a functional backthought provided by Drums and Bass here – effectively, the entire band turn into a wordlessly pulsating entity, surging ahead with monolithic swing. Anthemic Organ stabs imposingly pearce the fabric of this seductive monster, creating a swampy, rich and orchestral feel. And it takes the gravitational pull of grand exit „Threshold of Transformation“'s mournfully gyrating Guitars to bring it to a halt. Clocking in at just under an hour and possessed by a restless spirit, „Wavering Radiant“ is anything but easily digested, but rewards repeat listens with a cornucopia of sonic details and structural depth.

On the outside, it is easy to see why some would like to associate Constants with Isis. This, after all, is a band equally capable of laying down a colossal heaviness and singing in sweet melodic accord. Mastered by Nick Zampiello (who has coincidentally worked with Isis in the past), „The Foundation; The Machine; The Ascension“ is also an ambitious conceptual work comprising of three interrelated parts and reaching out into various genres. Most noticably, there is an enigmatic Post Rock-touch to these songs, a perception solidified by Constants' proximity to befriended formations such as Caspian as well as by the inclusion of two instrumental tracks and long stretches which drift or thunder without vocals.

On the other hand, it would not only be unfair to classify the Bostonians as copycats but plain wrong. Not only is „The Foundation...“ much less informed by Metal and Drone and much more by Fuzz-Rock, Constants have also developed a sound which is completely their own. Behind a scintillating wall of distortion, delicate Guitar loops are turning like clock wheels and the voice of frontman Will Benoit occasionally rises above the din in search of magic. If the album initially appears to be composed of a single long song, then this is a key element of the concept. One is actually not supposed to hear every little detail here and finding ways to penetrate this shield is part of the fun. As a listener, you need to follow the band closely as not to loose orientation and gradually, you are pulled into heart of the record, where all outward aggression is sublimated into pure romanticism.

Despite this longing for a unified sound, there are nonetheless several pieces which stick out. Opener „Genetics like Chess Pieces“ and „Those who came before pt. 1“, for example, are marked by the polarity between dreamy verses and anthemic chorusses and closer „Passage“ thrives on hypnotic Guitar sequences and headstrong rhythmical complexity. Like islands, these accessible tracks rise from a sea of emotion, which awaits and demands discovery. Parallels with Isis are certainly not entirely unreasonable. But with enough creative ammunition to make this an album that should keep its appeal for a pleasantly extended time span, Constants look set to inspire others – rather than wait for the big ones to leave their footprints.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Isis
Homepage: Constants
Homepage: Conspiracy Records
Homepage: MakeMyDay Records

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