It pains me to tell you that @AndyShore and I will not be attending Bonnaroo this year (as we discussed in a Podcrash) but we’re in good hands. Great friends of ours are going and luckily they both write quite well. They may not use Twitter much, but Laura and Bryn will be feeding us the previews as we get closer to the festival. When Bryn heard me and Andy’s first podcast where we went through our top 5 bands to see, he had ISIS quite high on his own list. Why? You’re about to find out.
@Shiftywhiteguy Gather ‘round, kids, I’m about to tell you a story.
The year was 2001, and I was a naive 16 year-old. At the time, I felt as though the local music scene in Indianapolis needed my support. Ok, so that wasn’t so naive…those guys needed all the help they could get.
Regardless, at the time, I was a big fan of a band called Forefront, which was having their farewell show.* Forefront was your average circa-2000 neu-metal band, and in retrospect, they were a silly reason to be at that show in the first place. Forefront was playing with two bands I had never heard of, Knut and ISIS. After speaking with a very good friend of mine** who was much more in to the metal scene than I was, it turned out that Knut was some weird Scandinavian band, and Isis was a “prog metal” band from LA. The term “prog metal” had never been brought up to me, so I dismissed most of the show, and decided that after Forefront, I would head to Steak n’ Shake, get some free shit, and call it a night.
Let’s skip two weeks into the future. I was at my favorite record store,*** looking for Portishead CD’s, and heard the most fantastic overture of metal mixed with droning jams mixed with pure, raw, intricate, well-produced beauty. I grabbed the used copy of the self-titled album I was looking for and asked the dude behind the counter what I was listening to. Son of a bitch if it wasn’t the band ISIS that I had walked out on a couple of weeks prior. I quickly snatched up Celestial, the album I was listening to, and started on a fantastic trip that has lasted nine years. Ever since then, I have repeatedly kicked myself for leaving that show. If I had a running list of my top 10 all-time regrets, this would easily be in the top 3.****
That brings us to present day. Since that idiotic decision, I haven’t even come close to being able to see ISIS live. In the meantime, they’ve released four more albums, all of which progressed beyond Celestial, the album I first fell in love with.
Genre skipping is something Americans don’t like. We love to be able to put things in boxes, so that when we talk, we can sound really smart by addressing entire groups with a single explanation. Unfortunately, ISIS is one of those bands that simply can’t be stuffed into a box as small as “prog metal.” ISIS combines the droning metal aesthetic of Tool or Neurosis with the technical aptitude of Tom Morello (very loose comparison, I’m just trying to say they manipulate their instruments in to a sound very unique to their style). At the same time, they add the symphonic, thematic, arching structure seen in bands like Pink Floyd while maintaining the jam element present in bands like Phish, where the progression within songs become songs in themselves. Yes, yes, hyperbole, I know, but I can’t find better ways to describe their abilities, and I’ve been trying for nine years.
Just today, ISIS announced that they are disbanding. All of their June shows, including Bonnaroo, will be part of a farewell tour that wraps up in Montreal on June 23rd. ISIS was already on my must-see list for Bonnaroo (stay posted for that one), but now their set, if possible, takes on more meaning for me. If there was ever a good explanation granted as to why a band is breaking up, it was this one:
“Simply put, ISIS has done everything we wanted to do, said everything we wanted to say. In the interest of preserving the love we have of this band, for each other, for the music made and for all the people who have continually supported us, it is time to bring it to a close.”
Oh, how saying goodbye makes me cringe. ISIS is a band that is surely out of Festival Crashers’ wheelhouse, but if you are lucky enough to be making the pilgrimage to Tennessee in June, do yourself a favor and catch this band while you can. You never know how much you’ll regret passing it up.
*This show was the weirdest thing ever. The venue was a clubhouse in a country club in the ritziest, uppity, pain-in-the-ass suburb of Indy. When I first got there, I thought for sure I had been duped.
**Worldwide Alfination! Alfie, I knew sooner or later, you would be referred to in writing.
***Ironically enough, owned by the guitarist of Forefront.
****Number two: My first girlfriend. Number one: Leaving the miraculous 2005 WVU-Louisville game after the 3rd quarter. Ouch.