ISIS’ Oceanic; under the knife
The Post-Coroner answers to no power and acts outside any jurisdiction. With a taste encompassing everything post- and -core, he moves with the grace of a rampaging badger through a field of corn; bludgeoning ears left and right and galloping straight at the next biggest threat, whether if be a bear or a motionless tractor.
Welcome back to The Post-Coroner! We’re bowing out of The Ocean Week with one final aquatically-themed post, and I couldn’t let the week pass without mentioning Oceanic, ISIS‘s seminal post-metal album released in 2002 through Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings.
Holding a special place in my heart as one of the very first metal albums I ever heard, and potentially responsible for my love of post- genres, Oceanic was the band’s second full-length. I was also lucky enough to hear it played in full in the summer of 2006, and it was one of my first metal gigs too, making it doubly special.
With one of the most recognisable drum fills serving as an introduction to both the song and the album, “The Beginning And The End” starts Oceanic off with a pop. A half palm-muted riff carries the song for about thirty seconds before the full force of the band hits. It’s not a pacy song, but it more than makes up for it in lush simplicity; trudging, sludgy riffs follow each other, bridged by delay-heavy leads, and punctuated by Aaron Harris’ sharp and sure snare hits – the bite that sets the head-nodding tempo.
Frontman Aaron Turner spends more time playing than singing here for sure, and that’s a trademark of ISIS; they create post-metal soundscapes, and use vocals as an occasional instrument; howling out into the open waters
Track 01: “The Beginning And The End“
The pace picks up a tot with “False Light“. Again, it’s Harris who provides the colour in the early stages of the song; a lot of cymbal work – the hi-hat in particular – which allows the snare to really punch through the driving riffs.
Halfway through the track the wall of noise subsides, and we’re treated to some of ISIS’ more serene abilities. The bass in particular stands out during these moments; it’s thick and fuzzy, intertwining with the electronics of which the band are quite fond, leading the song to its ultimately thundering climax.
Track 03: “False Light“
“Maritime” comes after an untitled interlude; it’s only short, especially compared to some of the longer 7-10 minute pieces that make up the bul of Oceanic. It’s entirely instrumental, and is incredibly light and airy in comparison to the other material; like a heady breath of oxygen after drowning.
Track 06: “Maritime“
After slow builder “Weight“, highlighted by the vocals of 27‘s Maria Christopher (who also appears on “The Beginning And The End” and “Carry“), penultimate track “From Sinking” feels like an epic naval battle: Aaron Turner’s barks are like a captain’s orders to his crew; the bass like cannon fire; and the high guitar lines like the call of carrion gulls overhead. It has a triumphant feel to it too; the 5:30 mark onwards leans more towards the post-rock of Mogwai, before again, the band breaks back in heavily – keeping the tone, but crushing you in its onslaught all the same.
Track 08: “From Sinking“
This is definitely a record that deserves to be played correctly: loudly, and through a good set of speakers. We’ll none of us see them live again, which is sad, as it’s a setting that truly benefits their expansive soundscapes. The room would sway with the moods they created; rows of heads bobbing along with the big riffs, then swaying with the quieter moments.
This is not a record I like to take single tracks from to listen to on their own; much like the album whose release we’re celebrating today, it’s like a journey through the water – perhaps more across it rather than down into it -
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed today’s entry by The Post-Coroner. I’ll be trying to cover a different genre each week, to keep it interesting – there is such a wide ocean of different genres to trawl, after all. Catch my listening habits on Last.fm if you really care at all, and leave a comment or something below. Don’t be a butthole.
These Arms Are Snakes – Easter (post-hardcore)
Balmorhea – Constellations (post-rock)
The Ocean Week content so far: