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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Isis -- In the Absence of Truth

 photo 220px-Isis_-_In_the_Absence_of_Truth_zps9d9e74e2.jpg

In the Absence of Truth is about...who knows what it's about. The cryptic liner notes and lyrics and whatever other resources don't make much sense, but the album sounds like some sort of epic spiritual quest that ends in a "Garden of Light." The band, who merge heaviness with more gentle passages and ambiance, actually sound like they're having fun at times. In the Absence of Truth has a definite Middle-Eastern flavor stirred into it's heavy/beautiful fusion, as well (I mean, they are called "Isis"). I'll tell you why I like it, though, and why I think it is the most underrated album in Isis's rock-solid catalog:
It is extremely relaxed. That's not to say there is no tension. Though Aaron Turner sings far more than he screams throughout the album, In the Absence of Truth has its heavy moments. Check "Not In Rivers, But In Drops," which has a more adventurous flow than any of Isis' previous work: the rock avalanche drum opening, the fun lighter, exploratory passage, the heavy middle that shifts courses until the ambient final minute.

Listening to In the Absence of Truth is like exploring a pyramid. You pass through well-lit areas full of cool hieroglyphics, you move through tight, dark corridors that make you nervous, and you climb up to the top at the end and feel like you've just been enlightened (more on this archaeological aspect with the next, and final Isis review).

The band themselves look down on this album because of how loosely it was constructed, but they are missing the point--in not refining everything to death, they've exposed a free and easy side to their music that's not been previously heard. After the claustrophobic Panopticon, this is just what was needed. In the Absence of Truth, which is Isis' penultimate work, also contains more 70's prog rock guitar and keyboard textures than any previous Isis album. Thankfully, these two elements would not be dropped for their final release, but explored to a greater degree.

2006 Ipecac Recordings
1. Wrists of Kings 7:45
2. Not In Rivers, But In Drops 7:48
3. Dulcinea 7:10
4. Over Root and Thorn 8:31
5. 1,000 Shards 6:17
6. All Out of Time, All Into Space 3:04
7. Holy Tears 7:04
8. Firdous E Bareen 7:50
9. Garden of Light 9:17


Neal (the viking) said...

Going to take this a weird direction, but I can make a connection from your review to a band I actually know, U2.

A lot of people don't like Pop very much, or at least see it as one of U2's weaker albums (I remember reading an article after it came out, discussing if U2 was on the way out the door for significance... heh). The band admits that it was a little rushed as well, but... I rather like it. I like that it's rough and doesn't have that polished U2 sound that they were known for in their following couple of albums in the 2000s.

Part of why I like No Line on the Horizon is because it gets a little more rough and chaotic, like Pop. Sometimes artists hit on something without meaning to and it works (and still don't get it after).

Nicholas said...

Man, I remember you talking about your love for that album. I wish "U" wasn't so far a way, because I am really looking forward to doing a chronological listen and review for all of those U2 albums.
Every few years, a news item seems to Pop up stating U2 wants to take the time to re-record that one as they originally intended it. Maybe they'll do it four years from now for its 20th anniversary. Considering since Rattle and Hum, it seems like the band have to strangle themselves to get an album out, I doubt that ever happening. Maybe deep down in their hearts they actually agree with you.

Neal said...

Hmmm, I've never heard that they were planning on that--admittedly, I haven't heard much U2 gossip in a long time. I sincerely hope they never redo those, as it would be a bad idea: there is a quality to that album that they only let out occasionally, and it's a good one (War and Boy's rougher edges work well too, for instance). I actually have a few of their records that were remastered (Unforgettable Fire, Joshua Tree, and War), and even that sounds a little odd to me.

That said, I'm glad they do occasionally go back occasionally to something they were working on. I recently found "Disappearing Act" on Spotify, which was a song they tinkered with during the Unforgettable Fire days and didn't finish. If I read right and the internet didn't fail me, they redid that one a few years ago, and it's quite good. You can tell it's a song from an older phase done with a "newer" polish, but it's quite good.

Even knowing that one so, I still rather they worked on a new album--they're clearly capable of making good music still, and you can't even say that of many young bands. Though I would hope it's more like No Line than Atomic Bomb, heh.

Nicholas said...

Woah, woah, woah, you heard "Disappearing Act" on spotify? You do not own The Unforgettable Fire Super Deluxe Edition? WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE!!! YOU HAVE TO BUY IT, NOW!!!
Hahaha, I know I am biased because TUF is by far my favorite U2 album, but the bonus disc with the sixteen rarity tracks has to be heard! It has "Disappearing Act," as well as my favorite U2 b-side ever, "11 O'Clock Tick-Tock," the excellent "Love Comes Tumbling" from Wide Awake in America. It has everything, man! You gotta!

Neal (the viking) said...

Slow Neal is slow... been forgetting to check back through this busy week.

I think I have most of those songs from the 1980s B-Sides album that they released, as well as having the Wide Awake in America EP for years (which is a spectacular collection of four songs if I ever heard one). Oh, and the Live at Red Rocks CD.

I think Disappearing Act is the only song I hadn't heard of that I would want to hear... Yoshino Blossom (or whatever it's titled) did not float my boat, for instance.

But I agree, The Unforgettable Fire is one of my favorites as well. It's the album of theirs that I've known the longest and still play regularly. I have always loved the cello line in the actual song, "The Unforgettable Fire." It's unexpected in a rock record but also works and gives the song a weightiness I still find thrilling.

Funnily enough, I got the album on tape from a girl in my orchestra that also played the cello. She was going to be moving and was selling some tapes to people. I picked up War and The Unforgettable Fire because I had heard somewhere that U2 was good.

One of the better purchases I've ever made (think it was... $7-$10). Big money in junior high, but so worth it.