Published Jan 01, 2006"Metal is only as stupid as it chooses to be. People have this conception that musicians are stupid and music itself has to be stupid and I don't buy that," says Isis singer, guitarist and visual design architect Aaron Turner. "I think that the underground is one of the few places where cerebral music is accepted." Throughout Isis's five-year erosion of accepted musical norms, the one thing they cannot be accused of is dumbing down their music, concepts and vision for easy consumption. A string of ever-evolving conceptual and unmistakable crushingly heavy releases have not only demonstrated that Isis (including bassist Jeff Caxide, guitarist Michael Gallagher, drummer Aaron Harris and keyboardist Bryant C. Meyer) can bring the apocalyptic musical devastation like few others, but paraphrasing the immortal Ian MacKaye, "they can fucking think," too.
Their latest full-length for new label Ipecac, Oceanic, is their most thoughtful and cerebral offering to date. Building on the base established by 2000's Celestial (Escape Artist), Oceanic sees Isis refining its levels of sonic density, exploring meandering and progressive tangents and experimenting more with atmospherics and melody without forsaking the end-of-the-world drone that they built there rep on. Omnipresent are the visual, conceptual and lyrical ties, with Oceanic following the thematic tread of its title just as each as each of Isis's past releases have done (The Mosquito Control EP, The Red Sea, Celestial and Sgnl>05).
But as each Isis release pushes the intellectual, artistic and musical boundaries further, the question becomes: is Isis too cerebral for the underground? "With each record we've lost a certain percentage of our audience, but that's not something you consider or you'll stagnate," Turner says. "We try to make it interesting for ourselves and the people who look for something beyond face-ripping gore-grind. I love metal and there are many bands that are intelligent and thoughtful, but often the fans aren't and there is no way to make them smarter except for offering records that don't pander to them. Oceanic is not an easy record if people are looking for something that is accessible. I don't think it is too intelligent for the hardcore or metal underground, I just think that a lot of people choose not to exercise their brains when listening to music. For a lot of people music is merely entertainment, and from my perspective it's not." But does artistic and intelligence equal pretentious? "It comes back to being cerebral," asserts Turner. "I like people to use their brains and dig into our records. Maybe some people get bored or think it's pretentious or just don't give a fuck, but the people who really take the time get it."