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Isis: Celestial

LA pioneers reissue the elemental birth of post-metal

Conceptual and bold, Isis’s 2000 full-length debut may not have been their masterwork but it heralded the arrival of a band intent on bravely contorting metal into new, occasionally abstract shapes.

Not for Isis the blastbeats or frantic shredding of thrash. Instead, Celestial showed that heaviness has little to do with velocity or anger and everything to do with attitude.

Centred around the simple concept of a tower, the music here is suitably stony and monolithic. Precipitous riffs plunge away like mountainous escarpments to nothing but deadly empty spaces below while guitars crunch and tumble like sonic rockfalls. Frontman Aaron Turner named this sound ‘thinking man’s metal’, though others dubbed it ‘post-metal’. Either way a new musical genre was born.

Though the influence of Neurosis and Melvins is clearly evident and Oceanic (2002) and Panopticon (2004) better realised and expanded upon Isis’s grim vision, Celestial is nevertheless an obelisk of originality protruding from a landscape inhabited by lesser bands.