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Saturday, March 29, 2008

CD Review: Isis - "Holy Tears" CD single

Isis - "Holy Tears" maxi-single
2007-08 Ipecac Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Any excuse to talk about Isis at The Metal Minute is most certainly welcome, and though it may seem strange that a CD single of "Holy Tears" from Isis' late 2006 masterpiece In the Absence of Truth would surface so late after-the-fact (a feat rarely seen since The Big 80s when a slew of singles could carry an album by Def Leppard, The Police or Janet Jackson for well over a year), apparently some distro problems needed to be overcome before this package could see the light of day. Hence we have Isis' first unintentional crack at the mainstream with their monstrous song "Holy Tears," given the single treatment with a few bonus items including the video for the song, a live cut recorded at the Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey and a remix of Isis' "Not in Rivers, But in Drops" from In the Absence of Truth done by none other than the godfathers of drone rock, The Melvins.

For purchase value to Isis loyalists already on board with (in this writer's opinion) the best metal album of 2006, it's The Melvins' remix that's going to be the most intriguing. The resonance of the song is stripped almost to an echo that gives the illusion it is being performed live, that is, until you hear the various tweaks in the climactic parts of the epic track, such as clattery industrial beat dubs, a funky breakdown part, and the spiking of Aaron Turner's bloodthirsty growls overtop the rest of the mix that is highly confrontational the second they rip into your ears. In some ways, this mix gets played somewhat straight as if in a wind tunnel before The Melvins and Lustmord literally use the song as their plaything. The remix is intentionally disjointed and appropriate for Isis' purposes if you gauge the Oceanic remixes discs.

The most striking aspect to the live cut of "Holy Tears" is hearing Isis stretch themselves to accommodate the boundless acoustics of an arena on their recent tour with Tool and frankly, it's not until the prog sequences of "Holy Tears" where Isis sounds like they're at-home. In the raging opening choruses, they strain a bit as the arena plays their foil, bouncing their heaviness back at them in occasionally off-putting moments, whereas in smaller venues (such as the one-off date in Baltimore on their Tool tour this writer was privileged to attend) Isis possesses the capacity to blow you right out of your socks. The good thing about this particular "Holy Tears" live version is that Isis seizes the opportunity to seek out trippier interpretations of the more lucid lines of the song to compensate the villainous acoustic-bounce so it's not a total wipe-out.

If Isis has made this much of an effort to get new product into the hands of their quickly-expanding fan base, then here's hoping after the next Red Sparowes run that we'll soon be talking about a new Isis studio release.

Rating: ***1/2

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