Isis ‎– Not In Rivers, But In Drops

4 out of 5

Label: Ipecac

Produced by: Matt Bayles; Greg Moss (recorded by, track 3)

While I tend to knock ISIS, while also accepting their place in the thinkin’-man’s-metal pantheon, I can definitely get wrapped up in their sound in smaller doses. It’s the album-spanning conceptual bit that started to wear on me, never quite achieving the holy noise to which I imagined they’d ascend – but thus suggesting maybe I’m just looking for something different than what they offer.

But what this means is that small doses – single songs – can still floor me, and Not In Rivers, But In Drops is up there in that effect. I understand that its parent album, In The Absence of Truth (to which I have not listened) seems to have had a less majestic reception (and perception by the band) than previous releases, but this 8-minute title track ebbs and flows with the massive bombast and grace of Oceanic‘s best moments, the group’s history with Matt Bayles earning a sound that doesn’t hedge off the sharp edges as notably, letting the thing lurch into absolute pummeling, but then also find a nice, organic ring for its slower movements. What’s key, to me, is that the track never feels unmotivated: its entire runtime is anthemic.

Followup Holy Tears hits with even more aggression initially, and is another good track – and a good pairing, since it’s (at the outset) even more immediate than the preceding song – although this remixed version by Thomas Dimuzio adds in extra minutes of buffer that I don’t think strengthen the original. Had this single just been the title track and this, it’d be iffy, but the live capture of Not In Rivers actually sweetens the deal: the various live sets Isis released proved how pummeling and accurate they could be live (while bringing back in some of the urgency that I think the produced records can lack), and though the track is essentially the same as the album version, those live attributes are enough to make it feel refreshed and separate from it, and remind me that I likely would’ve been an Isis (…the band) convert had I ever had the chance to see them perform.