IN SEARCH OF SPACE #3 - Mosquito Control EP - Isis
NOTE- I do have the remastered edition, and I hear the mix on the original was pretty rough. My edition does contain a cover of Streetcleaner by Godflesh but for the purposes of this article I will be ignoring it.
“Cover your face and run”
Someone must have slipped poison into my hangover cure. The world’s gone wrong. This isn’t the Isis that I know. I have downloaded but not yet listened to Isis’s debut official recording, and it’s difficult. As if you knew someone in their thirties, and then used a time machine to meet them when they were twenty. This EP is faster and harder, more brutal yet as refined as the Isis I know. It feels fresher, less emburdened and more spontaneous. As with all Isis the sound is somewhere between post-metal and sludge, this dynamic shifted to become more purely post-metal by their final album but this is their debut EP. Debut records I find are often the most interesting to comprehend, it is telling in a band because the debut nearly always follows what they think their market will enjoy. Often a listener, with the benefit of hindsight has to dig quite deep to find the band that later emerged. In the case of Isis it is particularly apparent as they underwent a rather tumultuous line-up shift, losing some key creative members and, as the band has admitted, changing the sound of later work. The Isis I love is definitely in here, the band members have cited the track Life Under the Swatter as a key moment in the formation of the sound that would become quintessentially Isis, with heavy riffs combined with complex instrumentation.
It is a blissful listen for a long time Isis fan like me. Often times, complex and difficult bands such as Isis, with full length albums that are often quite hard work, it is nice to listen to an EP, short and succinct and sometimes with less of the complexity. This release is by no means incomplete, and feels important and brave in the same way their later work does. According to the band, this EP was recorded for just $600 US and four days work. This record flits through influences, sometimes coming down very much on the sludge metal end of the spectrum, particularly in Under the Swatter, and yet the ending of Relocation Swarm borrows and almost Sunn O))) esque feedback for the last two minutes. On a. Isis have always been renowned and loved for their ambiance, of their ability to create space out of their downtuned doom metal riffs like no other. When listening to an Isis album outside you can look up at the sky and there seems to be so much more of it around than usual. This sense is not replicated on this EP, here there is a sense of density, a sweaty claustrophobia hanging over everything. A cloying at the lungs like the air in a loft, no room to breathe. We’re aboard the Isis dreamcraft and we’re losing atmosphere! The opener begins with a haunting guitar track, holding suspense and keeping you on your toes before swinging open the basement doors and leaping inside as the bass begins to just saturate the bottom end of the sound with this almost effervescent rumble. The guitar begins to become sharper, the highs more pronounced and the vibrations fade away much quicker. The album is less drone and more doom, with hardcore vocals hanging behind the veil of riffs. As in all of Isis’s work, there is a sonic balance between light and dark. The world-rocking heaviness at the zenith of the songs fades away into more melodic guitar work, like when the cacophonous thundering subsides in the middle of Life Under the Swatter.
Hive Destruction indulges in lyrics that more than any other track on the album speak to the fears within us. Constructing a hive above us, representative of the family or your job or the economy, and visualising it collapsing. Imagine if the most important institution, idea or framework you hold collapsed. I’m not talking solid structures, just as Isis are not. The hive does not mean the physical structure, it means the notion of a hive mind. We got a small insight into what modern society can do with its crises when the banks all seemed to collapse. Like a central stone slipping out of the summit of an old roman bridge, when the money that had magically been made just as magically evaporated; these strong, intelligent and competent men sat back in their chairs, staring blankly at the markets as one might watch asteroids or nuclear warheads raining on a home city. Total helplessness. This is emotion Isis are tapping into and they succeed.
Relocation Swarm is the final track and where Isis descend into eleven minutes of pure balls-to-the-fence mind-fuckery. A sonic assault on a par with any doom metal band you care to name. Each new movement thrashing relentlessly for two minutes before taking a breather and inhaling all of that sweet sludgy feedback.
I will almost certainly revisit Isis for this series, but this was a new record for me and I strongly encourage you to check out their full discography.
Words - Steven