Isis Live I-V

Isis Live I-V
They broke-up last year, but Isis are giving us one more thing to remember them by. Actually, make that a series of things: five live albums, to be released in two-week intervals. The series sees the first-time digital release of the band's live records that were originally self-released on CD and on various labels on vinyl. Live I (four songs from Oceanic, 40 minutes) captures the band live in Boston in 2003, with a raw recording and Isis fighting to capture the audience's nattering attention. The performances of hefty numbers like "Weight" and highlight "The Beginning and the End" are surprisingly engaging, given their lengths and the bordering-on-bootleg sound quality. Live II (six songs from Oceanic and Celestial, 66 minutes) is live in Sweden earlier in '03 and showcases again just how great the band were during this era, both in songwriting and performance. Live III (seven songs from Oceanic and Panopticon, 69 minutes) is taken from a gig in New Mexico in '04, and features better sound quality and, in tunes like "Backlit" and the massive "In Fiction," proof of how much this band could do with so little. Live IV (seven songs from Celestial and Oceanic, 64 minutes) is culled from a few different sources and also has some variety, in that it includes an improv that features a tip of the hat to, of all things, a Nirvana song. By the time the Isis fanatic gets to Live V (a complete performance of Oceanic from a London gig, 67 minutes), the repetition in songs gets a bit tiring, especially considering the band surely have material from their last couple tours sitting in the vaults. Still, when dealing with the massive Oceanic, how bad can it be? The whole series is a great reminder that no matter how horribly boring metalgaze became, it is at its essence, a good thing and Isis were a great thing, as well as a band that knew when it was time to pack it in. This is also a great reminder that it's time to start exploring those full-lengths again. Long live Isis. (Hydra Head)