Arriving on British shores again in support of their latest release Wavering Radiant comes Isis, with new songs, new merchandise and most shockingly of all, a rather bedraggled looking frontman. But did all this focus on ‘new’ provide the goods?
First, a bit on Mothlite. A project notable for being masterminded by Daniel O’Sullivan (Guapo, Sunn O)))), they struggled to impress themselves upon the sparsely packed Koko despite seven members spread across the stage (including what looked like Dave Mustaine jamming out on not one, but two Macbooks). Almost immediately seeming out of their depth, the eerie, transcendent nature of debut album Flax Of The Reverie really struggled to reveal itself in the live venue.
As drunken louts started shouting for Isis before Mothlite had even had a chance to settle their nerves, things always seemed like a losing battle. And yet, despite the undeniably disappointing and alienating majority of the set, the band pulled out two resounding final songs, including a tumultuous, pounding ‘The One In The Water’ which just for a brief while silenced those eager for Isis’ less meandering progressions.
Once the headliners eventually make it out onto the stage there’s an undeniable sense of rapture. That guitar sound that they’ve made their own over their long career carves out a deafening wave on opener ‘Hall Of The Dead’. Notably, tonight’s set is extremely heavy on new album Wavering Radiant, a brave decision considering the crowd’s obvious expectations of older, classic material.
But Isis have never been ones to cave in to something as fickle as audience demands. The opener closes and lurches straight into ‘Stone To Wake A Serpent’, the band passionately indulging in the more progressive avenue that has become so influential in their recent albums. At times it isn’t the guitars that tear your eardrums to shreds, but the hovering keyboards of Bryant Clifford Meyer.
The trouble is, the new material just really doesn’t seem to cut it live. There’s still something hypnotic about watching the band perform, but it’s a struggle to say that the material from Wavering Radiant doesn’t drag at points. No sooner is this proven when the band hurl themselves into ‘Dulcinea’, undoubtedly the standout track from 06’s In The Absence Of Truth.
The double bass of Aaron Harris’ kit turns each and every stomach lining within the Koko to complete jelly, and the overwhelming conclusion almost seems to contain within it a hint of nuclear power. Furthermore, when the band plays the haunting opening notes of ‘Backlit’ from Panopticon, the reaction is undeniably one of sheer ecstasy, completely unmatched to the rest of the night.
On a performance note, this band are nigh on flawless. Captivating and mesmerising (well, that is for the remedial who decided he just had to get some photos on his pathetic iPhone camera, right in front of yours truly) and never giving the impression that they’re phoning this one in. Tonight’s main gripe comes from not how they perform, but what they choose to play. Perhaps it’s a sign of how well revered their brace of earlier albums really are, and as the band perform the last spellbinding moments of ‘Altered Course’ before they leave the stage for good, it’s really no surprise that this is the case. It would take something miraculous to top those moments.
Originally published on The Line Of Best Fit.