Isis ‎– 07.23.06 – Live 5

4 out of 5

Label: self-released

Produced by: Justin Broadrick (mixed by)

This live recording of Oceanic, captured as part of an All Tomorrow’s Parties that celebrated “classic” albums from its featured performers, still leads to some of my criticisms of the studio version: that it’s rather predictable in structure – every burst of guitar and breakdown can be guessed at well before it arrives – and Aaron Turner, as a vocalist, is a weird non-presence, his yowls always at the same cadence and pace and so rather boring, with too-vague-to-be-effective lyrics to boot. That’s not to say his performance lacks enthusiasm, or that the group isn’t clearly skilled, or that predictability is wholly a bad thing – Oceanic, and thus this live version of it, definitely rocks – just that there are metal jams that’ve picked up the Isis torch that I tend to dig a lot more.

However, Live 5 does have a couple of things that the original doesn’t: the group has some more experience with their loosened up, more ambient stylings at the point of this recording, leading to a more organic playing style, and… it doesn’t have Matt Bayles at the boards. Bayles is an undeniably influential and important producer, and he works extremely well with certain styles, but his clean, crisp production style rather purposefully carves off all of the sharp ends, and it flattened out Oceanic, for me, into this pretty inoffensive batch of songs with no peaks and valleys. While this recording, mixed by Justin Broadrick, has the artifacts of live work – it’s a little washed out – it syncs with that aforementioned organicness extremely well, and the levels are such that Turner’s vocals sink to a background later, acting more as an aural component instead of a leading force. It made me hear the songs in a new light, and appreciate them moreso.

Just as my opinion on the studio version is rather sacrilege, to say this is a better way to hear Oceanic is, like, wrong, but specific to me, it gave me some more insight on how and why the disc was such a landmark release at the time.