Isis - In the Absence of Truth (2006)Release ID: 294

Isis - In the Absence of Truth (2006) Cover
Xephyr Xephyr / September 06, 2020 / Comments 0 / 0

The Beautiful Forgetfulness Of Post-Metal

It's all but impossible to talk about Post-Metal without mentioning Isis, who slowly but surely transformed the genre into something incredibly musical and atmospheric from its sludgy beginnings. By the time Isis took the stage with Oceanic and Panopticon in 2002 and 2004 Neurosis themselves had already shown signs of moving towards a mellower, more atmospheric sound in 2001's A Sun That Never Sets, leaving Isis to almost perfectly pick up where they left off with their own spin on Post-Metal and set its trajectory throughout the 2000's and beyond. While Neurosis's many 1990's albums have some serious heft and aggression to them as they paved the way into the Post-Metal sound, Isis took these Post-Metal beginnings and basically created a Post-Post-Metal kind of sound, shedding much of the aggressiveness while keeping enough punch and distortion in the guitars during key parts to keep their albums from falling into a completely Post-Rock kind of feel. Contrary to Neurosis's densely difficult albums most of Isis's material is easy to pick up and get lost in, but still insanely complex in what it does. In the Absence of Truth is yet another evolution for the band coming off of their massively acclaimed 2004 album Panopticon, with the band becoming even gentler and more atmospheric than in the past. 

It's easy to get lost in an album like this, with most of it being extremely easy-going and very pretty sounding. Isis did an incredible job with making atmospheric metal more approachable to the masses with less distortion, less harsh vocals overall, and droning song structures that are as calming as they are forceful. In the Absence of Truth brings the calmness to another level, though, with most of these 7 minute songs revolving around sweeping clean guitar melodies with a lot of tom and open snare work from the drummer. This sort of hypnotizing drumming has been pretty standard in Post-Metal for quite a while but it really shines through in this album since there's an overwhelming amount of atmospheric sections and clean guitar work. I really liked the swap to the open snare since it really does give the album a different identity from their previous albums, going along with the softer and soothing theme this album has. Even though I think this theme does get played out pretty quickly on the album, I can't deny that a lot of the layered atmospheric sections are absolutely gorgeous. They toe the line between somber sadness and faint hopefulness wonderfully, with the warm sounding bass grooves meshing perfectly with the percussion and wandering clean guitars. There's also a surprising amount of electronic elements within this album, with tracks like "Firdous E Bareen" and "Root Over Thorn" showcasing warbling waves or persistent blasts of synth respectively.

Although it's easy to listen to I always find Post-Metal to be extremely hard to digest effectively, and this album highlighted that slight deficiency way more than I anticipated. After going through a lot of Neurosis, Solstafir, and Cult of Luna in the past, it's just hard for me to really get sucked into these very plodding and patient Post-Metal albums. Although I always love what I hear in the moment, afterwards its always difficult to really come out with any solid conclusions on what I just heard. I think that Post-Metal should have this quality regardless, with its more cleanly woven song structures and chill but emotional qualities, but it's really difficult to remember what the prominent features of most of these tracks. I love it in the moment, but forget everything I just heard the second the album finishes. In the Absence of Truth severely highlighted that since most of the album is strictly nice sounding with extremely long buildups that sometimes end up having an anti-climax instead of a burst of sludge metal like in "Not In Rivers, But In Drops". 

However, I do think that this album is a perfect evolution of Isis's sound in a way that doesn't feel forced or fabricated coming off of Panopticon and Oceanic. Panopticon worked so well because the subtle atmospheric sections were constantly being offset with chunky, sustained riffing that made the buildups feel worth it. In The Absence of Truth is a slower experience, with many of the great moments coming from the subtle sections rather than the loud ones. It takes the soft sections of their previous albums and expands on them in a way that allows them to be impressive on their own and not just because they're building up to something bigger. While there still are some great builds in tracks like "Dulcinea" and "1000 Shards", it sometimes takes them an entire song to get there, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. I think what impresses me the most about this album is that I think it serves as the gold standard for how to write fantastic atmospheric Post-Metal sections that are subdued but complex and interesting. Isis have mastered the calm before the storm on this album, and even though it gets overlooked because it doesn't have as much of that Sludge Metal edge that Panopticon and Oceanic did, it's just an important and interesting in a very unique way. Whenever I listen to newer Post-Metal albums most of the calm sections sound like variations on this album, with the emphasis on toms and layered clean guitar and vocals. In the Absence of Truth has a subtle charm to it, even though it can be pretty forgettable at the end of the day. It's an album that you can get completely lost in, but not exactly figure out right away. It does move a bit too slow for me at times and the payoff can be extremely lackluster after five or so minutes of buildup, so it's not without its problems, but I still think that Isis have nailed their Post-Metal sound in a way that very few other bands have, even to this day. It's approachable, enjoyable, still musically complex enough for it to be intriguing, but can be utterly forgettable even if you're paying attention.


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In the Absence of Truth
The Fallen
The Infinite

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