Isis, Pelican, Tombs

Isis's 2002 album Oceanic is perhaps the central text in the history of the young branch of experimental heavy music called post-metal; in the stark and immense simplicity of its ideas, it comes closer than perhaps any other record to the young genre's Platonic ideal. Judging by the L.A. band's subsequent records, Isis has spent the last seven years chasing a ghost that they saw while making Oceanic, tweaking and molding its slow-motion roar and chiming arpeggios and exploring the possibilities of the style. Two thousand four's Panopticon and 2006's In the Absence of Truth showed only incremental progress, but the band takes bigger strides on the new Wavering Radiant. Wedding sonic and harmonic richness to gratifying weight and solidity, it's the most accessible Isis record yet — as much as eight-minute songs can be accessible — partly because bandleader Aaron Turner spends a lot of time on the microphone, both singing and bellowing, and even making use of double-tracking in places. The band's rhythmic limitations continue to restrict its range, but within those boundaries, Radiant may have taken Isis's idiom to something resembling a peak, albeit a subtle, rounded one. Instrumental quartet Pelican, though sometimes mentioned likewise on the post-metal shortlist, often hews closer to post-rock or post-hardcore. NYC's Tombs are the most aggressive band on the bill, sometimes coming off like High on Fire run through a tape delay.


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