Oceanic (Ipecac Recordings, 2002)
For: Neurosis, late-era Converge, Red Sparrowes
Byline: The game changing post-metal album that started it all.
With the news that the 13 year run of Isis is coming to a close this summer (no SLC dates or Denver!?) we thought it would be fitting to dedicate this round of FRIDAY NOSTALGIA!! to the undisputed kings of cerebral post-metal. I am not even sure what prompted me to pick up this album a few years back, I have never been much of a metal fan, in fact in the past couple of years has seen a huge upswing in tolerance for the musical violence so casually associated with metal. Perhaps that is what attracted me to Isis in the first place. Isis is heavy, at times even brutal, but the long, sprawling tracks on Oceanic have something that most metal albums previous to 2002 didn't have. Space. Moments of dead air between massive power chords and chugga-chugga riffs that let the sheer heaviness sink in, to let it settle deep in your chest. Climaxes that have equal valleys to their mountains of loudness. Metal, to me, has always seemed like a race with itself to get to the end of the song, hardly stopping to enjoy the nuclear-blast dystopian wasteland it was ferrying the listener across. Oceanic, at eight tracks, spans almost an hour, pitching massively heavy riffs, locked-in-time drumming, and Aaron Turner's gruff singing (somewhere between a bark and a tuneless howl), with a sprawling sense of glacially-timed pacing and atmospherics. Waves of noise crash on the brittle the shores of distortion-filled swells like a moon-tide ebb and flow, matching the indecipherable lyrics full of maritime imagery. A mist-shrouded ambient segue breaks up the heavier side-A and the more fluid side-B. A disembodied female voice floats in and out of the album's b-side, giving rise to the speculation of the albums lover-scorned thematic arc. Oceanic was the start of something huge, the start of metal dudes who weren't afraid to wear their post-rock and shoegaze influences on their sleeves. The huge slew of similar sounding bands and albums that all use Oceanic as a touchstone is evidence of the far reaching influence of this album. Although informed by bands experimenting with pacing and heavy-soft dynamics before them, Oceanic is a gem in the glowing crown of early 2000's post-metal. An absolute must hear before you die album.