Nowadays I have a difficult time talking about Isis without getting dewy-eyed. They represented a huge shift in the way I listened to music and introduced me to a whole host of other bands. Those that influenced them; for example Swans and Neurosis, and the bands they influenced in return; Cult of Luna and Russian Circles. For me at least, Isis rarely got it wrong. ‘Oceanic’ and ‘Panopticon’ continue to stand tall as incredibly high watermarks in the realm of heavy music, and are still two of my favourite albums. Whilst ‘In the Absence of Truth’ is perhaps their only weak point, their closing statement, ‘Wavering Radiant’, made up for that fleeting disappointment. Their eventual disbandment two years ago was a significant blow but as Aaron Turner himself stated “we said everything we wanted to say’ and how beautifully they said it.
If the band had left it at that and never released anything again it would have been fine by me; although the chance to see Isis play live just one more time is something I wouldn't pass up for my own wedding. Their breakup made all the more bittersweet with the release of a series of live releases culled from shows between 2003 and 2007. Decent as they were, they were still questionable, as the established Isis' live sound was so close to their records however, they do showcase some of the band's better tracks and are worth it for fans who want to hear the band in a slightly rawer state.
Now two years after their dissolution we have ‘Temporal’, a retrospective release collecting a small handful of demos and rarities. It feels largely pointless unfortunately, aside from a few curious bits and pieces, such as their covers of Black Sabbath's ‘Hand of Doom’ and Godflesh's ‘Streetcleaner’.
The first disc is made up of demos from several of their full length records but aside from the lack of vocals, there is little to differentiate from the originals. With a band like Isis it feels like they rarely needed to alter very much once a song was written, and so while a die-hard might be interested to hear them it serves little purpose for the rest of us with the finished products being far superior.
The second disc contains the aforementioned covers as well as a couple of remixes and the two tracks that the band released on a split record with Melvins shortly after they broke up. These two tracks, ‘Pliable Foe’ and ‘Way Through Woven Branches’ are really the only draw for this collection but certainly aren't anything close to Isis' best work. The remixes are unremarkable and the only new track is also called ‘Temporal’ and is just 2 minutes of ambient noise and feedback which barely feels like a worthwhile inclusion at all. The last track, an acoustic version of ‘20 Minutes/40 Years’, is definitely the best part of the record; the intricacies of the song is even more apparent when performed on acoustic guitars and while it would have been great to hear Aaron Turner put a spin on the song's vocal work it's still a really enjoyable listen.
‘Temporal’ just doesn't feel necessary and with most of the songs already having been released in some form or another, there's little need for them to be given a full release. They all feel like they could have just been stuck on the end of repackaged full lengths or even just been released as free downloads elsewhere. ‘Temporal’ is best served as a listening curiosity but certainly doesn't warrant repeated listens even for the most ardent fans.
Posted: Tue 16 October 2012