Isis - Panopticon
Ipecac Recordings
Atmospheric Sludge
7 songs (59:04)
Release year: 2004
Isis, Ipecac Recordings
Reviewed by Daniel

After hearing continuous praise to Isis I decided it was time to check out something by them, so I picked up their latest offering, Panopticon and I must say I’m absolutely impressed by this album.

A very metaphorical way to explain this album would be by comparing it to the ocean. At some moments it is very calm and relaxing, but it can suddenly become agitated and more and more violent and before you know it, huge waves are destroying everything on their way. Next thing you know, the ocean is as pacific as it was before. Well, such is the case with Panopticon.

Isis play a very atmospheric version of Sludge, mixing very thick riffing with relaxing atmospheric guitar passages and some minor (yet effective) electronic arrangements. What makes Isis stand out is the way they arrange their guitar structures; while we have the thick mid-paced riffing going on, Isis manages to “hide” some awesome melodies inside that “muddy” wall of sound, creating a very enjoyable contrast; and just when the wall of sound begins to be too much, they tune the aggressiveness down, transforming the mammoth wall of sound into some beautiful absorbing guitar passages; so one thing is clear, Isis sure know how to manage dynamics in their music. Add to all of this some great electronic arrangements which enhance the atmosphere and you have one hell of a package. Once again I can draw comparisons to the ocean because the music is so engulfing it feels like being completely submerged in the deep blue sea.

The vocalist switches from some hard-coreish vocals (don’t be scared, I hate Hard-Core vocals but these ones didn’t annoy me at all, they fit the music) to raspy clean singing in order to work with the different sections. The production is excellent; it really helps to give that huge, crushing feeling to the music without sacrificing clarity.

Fans of bands like Neurosis, Cult of Luna and Pelican can’t let this album pass them by, I’m sure they’ll absolutely love it, and Metal fans in general should consider giving this album a try too, as it is flawlessly crafted and perfectly executed; just something to remember when buying the album: the songs on Panopticon take time to build and to develop, so if you have a short attention span or simply don’t enjoy albums that aren’t straight-edged, this one isn’t for you. Panopticon isn’t only the storm, but also the calm that comes before and after it.

Without a doubt Isis have set a standard for all Sludge bands to come with Panopticon; let’s see if someone (or even them in their next release) can top it by adding that extra something to take this to the next level and create an absolute masterpiece.

I am happy to confirm that for once all the hype is true; Isis slay all the fuckin’ way.

Killing Songs :
All are excellent but Backlit is my favorite.
Daniel quoted 87 / 100
Goat quoted 95 / 100
Other albums by Isis that we have reviewed:
Isis - Wavering Radiant reviewed by Adam and quoted 87 / 100
Isis - In The Absence Of Truth reviewed by James and quoted 92 / 100
Isis - Oceanic reviewed by Goat and quoted 92 / 100
Isis - Celestial reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
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