Isis, Pelican, Keelhaul | Bottom Lounge | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Isis, Pelican, Keelhaul Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Recommended Critics' Picks

When: Fri., June 12, 8 p.m. 2009

The brightest star in the firmament of progressive metal, Isis has been making variations on the same record for almost a decade, but that’s hardly a liability—I mean, nobody was like, “Come on, Faberge, lay off with the eggs.” Like its predecessors, last month’s Wavering Radiant (Ipecac) is architectural in structure and detail, simultaneously grandiose and hermetic, so that listening to it feels like exploring the ruins of an alien temple—but where 2006’s In the Absence of Truth brought to mind ornate mosaics and tangles of half-buried statuary in an uninhabited desert, the new one is all marble columns and plates of brass at the bottom of the sea. Isis wields its power with such restraint and precision that a single perfectly chosen chord change in “Hall of the Dead” can work as a climax to the angelic fury of the final chorus—nothing follows that sting but a long, ringing fade, and nothing ought to. The vocals, dwarfed by towering guitars on 2004’s Panopticon, continue to creep up into a more conventional place in the mix, which annoys me—but that unfortunate choice is offset by the addition of a deeply excellent keyboard sound, as stately and penetrating as the 16-foot stops on a pipe organ. The album is big enough to climb inside and stand up in, and when Isis unfolds its songs to their full height onstage you can’t even see the top of them. Opening are the mighty Pelican and Cleveland’s sorely underappreciated Keelhaul, whose fourth album, Keelhaul’s Triumphant Return to Obscurity, is forthcoming on Hydra Head. —Philip Montoro

Price: $18, $15 in advance

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