Once upon a time, in my 16th or 17th year, I had but two concerns; one, whether or not the punk chick with the red bob at Rainbow Records had a boyfriend; and two, which was slightly more dire, was which band logo I wanted to have my friend Ron airbrush onto the back of my leather jacket.

If you wanted to get a fuggin’ perfect Crimson Ghost or GBH logo on the back of your leather, Ron was the guy to do it. His dad had an old truck camper in the side yard and Ron had turned it into his workshop. He had a box full of chains, spikes, and needlenose pliers to turn your jacket into the ultimate garment of bad-assery.

Had Isis been around then, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. ISIS in big red block letters. ISIS without a fucking doubt. Just thinking about it now makes me want to go get a leather jacket, go visit Ron in the clinker, and have him do his magic once again.

For over 10 years, Isis have consistently pushed the fundamental boundaries of what the term “heavy metal” is supposed to mean. They’re a rare case of a band deserving the amount of scholarly press, analysis and praise that they receive with each release.

Wavering Radiant is the band’s fifth full-length release. It comes out on Ipecac Records on May 5th. Melvins/Queens of the Stone Age producer Joe Barresi fills in for longtime producer Matt Bayles, and Tool’s Adam Jones guests on a couple of tracks.

Isis have evolved with each release, adding new dimensions and layers to their sound. From the early crushing grind of Celestial (2000) to the calculated precision of Oceanic (2002) and Panopticon (2004) to the hyper dimensional epic — In the Absence of Truth (2006).

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This is the culmination of the band’s progression so far. Chunky guitar phrases churn and throb while warm keyboards rise and swell behind Aaron Turner’s half sung/half anguished growl vocals.  There are lots of “floaty parts” with chorus-treated bass guitar and ambient soundscapes and even the heaviest riffs contain new melodic dynamics, but don’t mistake these progressions in the band’s sound for any kind of “weakness.”

Only one of the songs on the album clocks in under seven minutes, and most of them flirt with the 9 – 10 minute mark. But there’s never a moment where these longer passages feel repetitive, dull or indulgent. It’s hypnotic and engaging from beginning to end. This could be my favorite yet from these guys, and already it’s one of my favorite discs of the year so far. You can get it in a sweet limited edition vinyl set that is shipping now, or you can pre-order the CD for only 10 bucks.

Believe the hype.

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Ben Wiser

Test of the Boomerang is an in-depth exploration of some of the best material found on the Live Music Archive.

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