Abandoning their love affair with one-word album titles, Isis have once again turned a tonal corner for In The Absence Of Truth. A darker, murkier listen against 2004’s Panopticon, the latest from the Californian five-piece has an unsure quality to it, mysterious and foreboding, placing their crystalline tones in a context of darkness rather than light.
Expectedly, the record is heavier. There are some metal breakdowns right out of Tool’s playbook (a strange coincidence that they shared a tour), but that sludgy aspect of Isis’ sound is never dirge-like here, but usually has a more uplifting, active movement and purpose. They don’t shy away from indulging in their trademark instrumentals, however, with shrouded pieces like “Firdous e Bareen” and “All Out Of Time, All Into Space” utilizing electronics not yet explored by the band.
The listening experience can be slightly unsettling in light of Isis’ rather beautiful and lush arrangements—progressions aren’t explored in the same classicist elocution of their previous endeavors, but rather tonal ideas tend to spread across In The Absence Of Truth construction’s, like hearing a maze. Its mist lends itself to less precision, despite its obvious deliberateness.
There is a concept, or more likely several intertwining concepts, present, though exactly what it is remains a matter of dispute. Holiness and lies are all central themes, but exactly what band leader Aaron Turner had in mind will likely stay open-ended and labyrinthine.
By all measures, In The Absence Of Truth is breathtaking. It is a hard notion to follow up such triumphs as Panopticon and Oceanic with deft and skill while still growing, yet the band have managed to. How it rates on personal scales is entirely a fan matter, but it will rate high on critical scales for the year.