Ever wondered what a combination of ISIS and Deftones might sound like? Here’s the not so surprising answer. Back in 2010, the former announced their split. Clearly feeling that they’d run their road as far as was reasonable, the post-rock quintet decided to call it a day and, so it seemed, were bound for the history books. They’d had an impressive run: playing their first show in ’97, they went out thirteen years later with five albums under their belt and a trademark sound – that slow-paced, irrepressibly building guitar churn of a song; the kind that took its own damn time to get where it wanted to go; emotional release in loud, passionate, unbridled noise.
After three years, however, it looks like the reported death of Isis was somewhat premature. This summer sees the partial resurrection of the band in the form of Palms; keyboardist/guitarist Bryant Clifford Meyer, bassist Jeff Caxide and drummer Aaron Harris. The latter summed the regrouping up as succinctly as anyone could ask for, when he revealed that, “after a little time Jeff, Cliff, and I decided that it was insane that we all still lived here in Los Angeles and weren’t playing together”. And so, they reformed – albeit as a slightly diminished ensemble. Not content with that, though, they sought one more element to make their new project whole. In a word? They sought a vocalist.
They found that vocalist in the form of Deftones‘ Chino Moreno. As lead singer of a band who are invariably stamped with a host of musical labels – from drone to shoegaze via art rock and post-grunge – he’s a man able to turn his hand to a number of styles that dwell within the field many would simply label ‘metal’. He’s also a man who has spent a large part of the last 25 years perfecting a vocal style that accommodates the stings and swells of the soul’s vicissitudes. He was perfect for the job.
The result completely lives up to expectations. But it does so in the sense that, whether you have entertained the idea or not, this is exactly what a conjunction of three-parts ISIS /one part Deftones would always sound like. In this way, it’s fair to say that if you are a fan of either band, you should think seriously about checking this record out. It’s also fair to say that if you’re not, there’s not much to tempt you in.
Only six tracks long, it’s an album that appears fairly brief. Each of these songs are, however, as ‘epic’ (to use a word that will be used, used and re-used in describing this LP), as unhurried, and as powerfully emotional as one might expect. The beautiful highlight is ”Tropics”, a number that should convince even the most obstinate of skeptics that moments of gentle beauty can exist and thrive in such musical surroundings. Acting as a sort of oasis among the raging sand storms of ”Shortwave Radio” and ”Antarctic Handshake”, and clocking in at a relatively swift five minutes and forty-four seconds, what it concedes in length it makes up for in a lush, dreamy quality. Harris’ drums take on the hypnotic rhythm of the Pacific lapping upon the shore, providing the tranquil base from which Moreno and the rest soar to calm, yet powerful heights.
The rest is very much of a type. Sharp, pronounced drumming; thoughtful yet slightly abrasive riffs; Moreno’s vocals turning musing and sensitive before resetting to piercing, all-knowing yells; it’s all conducive to creating an atmosphere of deeply felt, soul-tearing emotion. Either side of ”Tropics”, the tone doesn’t abate for a moment, and the band don’t stray from the paths they’ve all now been following for decades. It’s an intense listen and, owing to the duration of each song, one that can begin to feel overbearing. But, overall, this debut outing by a group of hardened veterans feels like a welcome return by three much-missed post-rockers, and a continuation of one singular vocalist’s blistering career.
You can stream the entire album over at SPIN.