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The Haul: Isis's Wavering Radiant

67. Isis – Wavering Radiant 2LP – Ipecac, 2009 – $25

Isis' Wavering Radiant

Ever since I learned my lesson about blind-buying $20 LPs with The Arcade Fire’s hugely disappointing Neon Bible, I’ve made a habit of giving a few spins to any recent releases before purchasing them new. (My used LP buying habits more than make up for this lack of unfamiliar ground.) Isis’s Wavering Radiant is a slight exception, since I’d listened to and enjoyed a few songs from it since the record first leaked, but I hadn’t given it a full listen. It’s not a matter of me not enjoying those songs—“Ghost Key” matches the highlights from In the Absence of Truth, “Holy Tears” and “Garden of Light”—but I just haven’t been in the mood to listen to a whole Isis album. Panopticon and Oceanic are absorbing, consistent LPs, but they’re also draining experiences. I’m still willing to drop a steep $25 on the double LP, however, trusting their consistent output a bit more than The Arcade Fire (even if In the Absence of Truth was a notch below Panopticon).

It’s unfortunate that Isis strayed from their usual fall release schedule, since the group’s oppressive post-metal begs for dark evenings and creeping frost. Judging from my scattered listens, Wavering Radiant returns to some of the pre-Oceanic riffs and aggression without losing those drifting, devastating instrumental passages (the bridge of “20 Minutes / 40 Years” certainly counts). There’s no shortage of chorus-laden, Peter Hook-style bass leads, atmospheric keyboards, or Aaron Turner’s vocals, but those guitar riffs keep things centered. I would prefer smaller doses of Turner’s guttural screams and Tool-informed singing voice, but the balance between those two approaches seems to be better than In the Absence of Truth, which relied too much on the melodic vocals. Check in with me in November to see how this album’s holding up.