Music: Isis

Isis was an American metal band founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1997, though they eventually based themselves in Los Angeles. They were one of the leaders of the "post-metal" movement, alongside Pelican, Cult of Luna and Trope Makers Neurosis. Like those bands, Isis are known for writing lengthy songs that fuse Sludge Metal with post-rock.

Starting off as a very similar band to Neurosis, since their album Oceanic Isis have become one of the most popular and influential of the post-metal bands, possibly the most popular and influential. In 2010, they announced their decision to break up following their final tour.

Last Known Lineup
  • Aaron Turner (vocals, guitar)
  • Michael Gallagher (guitar)
  • Jeff Caxide (bass)
  • Aaron Harris (drums)
  • Bryant Clifford Meyer (electronics, keyboards, guitar, vocals)

Core Discography (they have many, many more releases)
  • The Mosquito Control (EP), 1998
  • The Red Sea (EP), 1999
  • Sawblade (EP), 1999
  • Celestial, 2000
  • SGNL>05 (EP), 2001
  • Oceanic, 2002
  • Panopticon, 2004
  • In the Absence of Truth, 2006
  • Wavering Radiant, 2009


Tropes that apply to Isis:

  • Bald of Awesome - Bassist Jeff Caxide. Take a look.
  • Bolero Effect - As a post-metal band, their use of this trope was inevitable. "Weight" is an excellent example.
  • Breather Episode - Several of them. The "SGNL" tracks function as these on Celestial and SGNL>05, for example.
  • Broken Record - There are only two lines in "Weight", the first of which is repeated for about half of the song and the second of which is repeated for the last minute or two.
  • Canon Discontinuity - They don't consider Sawblade to be an official release because it was released in extremely limited quantities. Two of the songs on it were later re-released on other releases, but the two originals do not appear to be available elsewhere.
  • Concept Album - Every one of the band's full length albums qualifies, and arguably their EPs (apart from Sawblade) all have a linking theme as well. Furthermore, the band's work is full of Call Backs and Call Forwards that arguably make their entire recorded body of work a continuous concept suite.
    • Celestial uses the idea of a central "mother" control tower which is built, decays, and eventually (on the sequel SGNL>05 EP) crumbles. The album also deals with concerns about the erosion of privacy, which would be revisited on Panopticon.
    • Oceanic is the most obvious; it concerns a man who falls in love with a woman, only to find out she's been a willing participant in Brother-Sister Incest for most of her life. He eventually passes the Despair Event Horizon and is Driven to Suicide.
    • Panopticon is mostly about its namesake, a concept for a prison by Jeremy Bentham in which prison guards would be able to view all prisoners, who were unable to view the guards back. This is used as a metaphor for modern society. The record also invokes the writings of Michel Foucault, who wrote extensively about this tendency in not merely prisons but also the army, the school, the hospital, the factory, and other modern hierarchical institutions. More recently, the concept has been used to describe the Internet. The liner notes quote technology writer Howard Rheingold and futurist Alex Steffen, who discuss their concern with the prevalence of surveillance in modern society. (The Black Metal band Panopticon is, incidentally, named after the same concept).
    • Later records are also apparently concept albums, but Turner has been more reticent about discussing what the concepts are (and initially did not even reveal the lyrics). He commented, "I feel there's a lot of emphasis these days placed on explaining everything in such a fashion that there's really nothing left for the listener or reader to explore themselves. It's all spelled out. So it's interesting to leave some of that stuff open-ended so they have do to a little bit of legwork themselves".
      • Themes apparently explored in In the Absence of Truth include the Hashshashin (Assassins) and their founder Hassan-i Sabbah, Don Quixote, House of Leaves, and Jorge Luis Borges' Labyrinths. It was also inspired by a book on Nazi Minister of Arms Albert Speer and the way society has "a tendency to portray the enemy as very one-sided and one-dimensional". The nebulous explanation of the record's concept was apparently thematically linked to the concept itself; drummer Aaron Harris commented that the album is based "on personal perception of anything [...] and what's true and what's not true". The title of the album is derived from Sabbah's famous quote, "Nothing is true, everything is permitted".
      • The concept of Wavering Radiant is even less clear, but appears to be inspired by Carl Jung and dreams. Turner described the album as a "path of exploration", and reviewers commented that it appeared Turner "has left our world behind for exploration of another beyond the lives led by mortal men".
  • Cover Version - They have covered Godflesh's "Streetcleaner" and Black Sabbath's "Hand of Doom".
  • Distinct Double Album - An odd example. Celestial and SGNL>05 make up two halves of one due to the fact that the band didn't want to release a double album as its first full-length release. The releases are thematically connected, anyway (in addition to the tower story of the former being continued on the latter, the latter contains a remix of the title track from the former; the former has "Deconstructing Towers" while the latter has "Constructing Towers"; etc.).
  • Downer Ending - Oceanic. Lyrically, anyway.
  • The Dulcinea Effect - The song "Dulcinea", natch.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener - As a Post-Rock band, many of their songs have these.
  • Epic Rocking - Their average song is probably about 8-9 minutes long. Their longest studio track is probably "Grey Divide" from the posthumous Temporal compilation, which runs for 16:34. Live performances of songs were known to stretch even longer; there is one version of "Altered Course" on a bootleg that runs for at least twenty minutes. On official recordings, the live version of "Celestial" on Live.02 extends for 17:25.
  • Erudite Stoner - Aaron Turner commented that he gave up smoking marijuana in 2008, which means that before then, he qualified as this.
  • Fan Dumb - After the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria started making the news, the members of Isis started getting hate mail from people who confused them for the terrorist group.
  • Instrumentals - "Altered Course", all of the "SGNL" tracks, "Deconstructing Towers", the untitled track on Oceanic, "Maritime", "All Out of Time, All into Space", "Firdous E Bareen", "Wavering Radiant". Many of their other songs are nearly instrumental, with vocals for only one or two minutes of frequently very long running times.
  • Limited Lyrics Song - Most of their songs, especially on Panopticon. "Weight" contains only two lines, repeated throughout the song.
  • Lyrical Cold Open - "So Did We" sounds like it starts in the middle.
  • Lyrical Dissonance - If you didn't listen to the lyrics, you'd probably never guess that the main character in Oceanic is Driven to Suicide.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness - Their early stuff is probably a solid 10. The later stuff drifts around the 6-9 area, though some passages drop as low as 1.
  • No Title - One of the tracks on Oceanic is titled simply with a dash.
  • One Steve Limit - Averted; as you can see above, there are two Aarons in the current lineup.
  • Post-Rock - Specifically, Trope Codifier for the Post-Metal subgenre.
  • Rearrange the Song - Justin K. Broadrick of Godflesh and Jesu was invited to remix the title track of Celestial for the band's SGNL>05 EP. The band later invited a whole host of diverse musicians to remix Oceanic, which was released as a two-disc set.
  • Sinister Surveillance - A common theme in the band's music, and what inspired the name of their third album Panopticon.
  • Sludge Metal
  • Soprano and Gravel - A variant; the vocals switch between a hardcore-influenced death growl and mellow clean singing.
  • Spiritual Successor - Palms, a supergroup with former ISIS members Jeff Caxide, Aaron Harris, and Bryant Clifford Meyer and current Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno.
  • Uncommon Time - Used frequently. "Hall of the Dead", for example, is in 5/4.