[10th January 2014]
[Version Studio Records]
01. A Simple Gesture
03. Underneath It All
05. Victims of the Masses
06. The Dead End
08. It Will Burn
09. Nothing To Collect
Well, this is unexpected. A fairly low-key release on a small indie label of an eponymous debut album from relatively new Swedish trio, The Isolation Process is quite the head-turner.
Until 2011, the members of The Isolation Process were three-quarters of Lingua, who released two albums together before guitarist Misha threw in the towel. These things happen. The remaining guys, with vocalist Thomas Henriksson picking up the guitar, resolved to continue making music together under this new guise and we should be thankful they decided to do so.
Why? Because beneath this rather modest and unassuming exterior lies a collection of remarkably well-written, sensitively executed songs that contain moments of towering grandeur.
Musically, the band seem to draw influence from Isis, Baroness and potentially a nod or two in the direction of Karnivool and the later stages of the career of now-defunct fellow Swedes Misery Loves Co. The tracks are then deployed with an almost ruthless, stripped-back efficiency reminiscent of Helmet. The sound is capped off by Thomas’s remarkably soulful voice. Bringing to mind Pete Murray of Ultraspank/Lo-Pro fame, he lends the tracks a heartfelt melancholy that captures both the imagination and attention of the listener.
Album opener “A Simple Gesture” kicks things off in impressive style, with its churning riffs and big, spacious chorus. But things become even more interesting on “Visions”, whose verses see Thomas’s mournful vocal line and delicate acoustic guitar backed with Anders Carlstrom’s fuzzed-out bassline and Patrick Rydbrand’s tom-heavy drums. This slightly unconventional approach works remarkably well.
Throughout The Isolation Process, and especially on “Victims Of The Masses”, the band have struck a particularly fine balance between all three instruments and the vocals. All elements get their chance to shine, without ever overpowering each other. The textures of the album are not necessarily as intricate as some of the band’s peers, they more than compensate by making every single note count. The Isolation Process shows pretty clearly that less really is more when sensitively applied. Thomas builds a frankly enormous guitar tone through a deft use of layering. In showing restraint with each individual layer, they bind together into a colossal sound that maintains both density and clarity.
If there is a criticism, it is that most of the songs have a similar structure, with a quiet middle section building to a final crescendo, which is fairly standard practice in the genre. There are also a couple of short interlude tracks that are inoffensive but far from essential, and unfortunately album closing epic “Nothing To Collect” feels just a bit too slow and ponderous. But these are relatively minor quibbles.
Either way, at 6 Euros for a download via Bandcamp for more this much quality, atmospheric sludge-infused post-metal, The Isolation Process is both a bargain and a hidden gem. Although with tunes of this calibre in their arsenal, I doubt these gems will remain hidden for that much longer.