Isis - In The Absence Of Truth
Ipecac Recordings
9 songs (64:46)
Release year: 2006
Isis, Ipecac Recordings
Reviewed by James
Archive review

With a review of Wavering Radiant forthcoming, what better time to look at its' predecessor, In The Absence Of Truth? ITAOT was the first Isis album I'd heard, and until Wavering Radiant, the only one I'd actually listened to. Why I've never bothered to really explore their earlier catalogue is beyond me, as ITAOT certainly got an awful lot of play from me upon its' release, and even today I still think it was one of 2006's strongest releases. The album marked the band's first release on Mike Patton's Ipecac label, and the album did seem to be pretty well-promoted at the time, Isis gaining a high-profile support slot with Tool and a fair amount of magazine column inches. However, since then the album seems to be viewed by most people as an unwanted progression from Panopticon into softer territory (even Aaron Turner has recently claimed that this album was “too clean”). However, the band still bring sludge-metal savagery in spades when they want to, the opening of lead single Holy Tears being a particularly crushing highlight.

Wrists Of Kings kicks off In The Absence Of Truth, Isis laying down their musical template very clearly within the first song. It's all winding melodic guitar and tribal drumming (Aaron Harris' performance behind the kit is outstanding), Aaron Turner's vocal lines, cleanly sung in a rich, pleasing baritone drifting above it. Of course, this is a post-metal album, and the music gradually builds into furious riffing, topped off with Aaron Turner's lung-bursting roar. It's a bit of a shame his vocals are so low in the mix, as he genuinely is a great singer. Anyway, Wrists Of Kings sets down a pattern that admittedly rarely changes through ITAOT's nine songs (eight if you don't count interlude All Out Of Time, All Into Space) but who really cares when the songs are this good? At least three songs here are straight-up classics (Not In Rivers, But In Drops, Dulcinea and 1000 Shards if you're interested, and Holy Tears isn't far-off either.). Although Isis may follow a fairly rigid formula through the record's hour-long run-time, they really do a great job with it. All the musicianship here is fantastic (and it's worth investing in headphones or speakers with a good bass response, the basslines really are a hidden treasure) and although the production is, to put it mildly, strange, it's dreamy, murky sound actually fits the record pretty darn well. There are a few little touches in there too that should raise a smile, I particularly like how the opening beat to Firdous E Bareen jumps back and forth between each headphone.

Apparently there's a concept yet again to In The Absence Of Truth, supposedly tied together by the quote in the booklet (“Nothing is true. Everything is permitted”) attributed to the mystical Hassan-I-Sabbah. Not that it really matters, as Aaron Turner's vocals are buried beneath the swirl of guitars and drums, and what lyrics do pop out are pretty incomprehensible. Still, it does mean that ITAOT is a remarkably coherent piece of work, every track feeling like a part of a much grander whole.

Not that the album is entirely perfect, if you're not in the mood it can be a bit of a slog, with the record being pretty much impenetrable apart from a nifty guitar bit here and there on first listen. However, once you've got into it, ITAOT is a masterwork. What a great shame it is that it's not viewed as on par with Oceanic and Panopticon.

Killing Songs :
All, but standouts are Not In Rivers, But In Drops, Dulcinea, and 1000 Shards
James quoted 92 / 100
Adam quoted 85 / 100
Goat quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by Isis that we have reviewed:
Isis - Wavering Radiant reviewed by Adam and quoted 87 / 100
Isis - Oceanic reviewed by Goat and quoted 92 / 100
Isis - Celestial reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Isis - Panopticon reviewed by Daniel and quoted 87 / 100
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