2 out of 5
Label: Escape Artist
Produced by: Kurt Ballou
As I think I’m required to start out: I’ve never been an ISIS fan. Other reviews pick at why that might be the case, but Mosquito Control – though it’s absolutely not representative of their sound on following albums – has the pieces in place which make me feel like it’s wound into the core of the band: Aaron Turner’s too-vague lyrics and powerful but indistinctive growl; compositions that try too hard to be different and end up sounding middling instead. It’s all there on opener Poison Eggs, which has these little breakdowns in the riffing that only serve to cause some of the significant heft and momentum to stumble, and then followup Life Under the Swatter – on the wiki page, this is the only track Turner feels is suggestive of the band’s direction thereafter – is just a mish-mash, not allowing things to settle into metal or thrash or something more open-ended. Music doesn’t have to be one of those things, for sure, but my inability to appreciate ISIS has often stemmed from the way I feel their active avoidance of being identifiable leads to the music never picking up steam; to words that aren’t pointed enough to make their metaphors affecting. (Here those words concern the titular concept, which stands in for, I’d presume, mankind, and our drone-like nature, but it’s typical Turner one word bleating, going for mood over lyricism.)
Only closer Relocation Swarm really stands out to me, because it’s the only track just willing to go all-in – no fancy tricks, just blasting us with metal, and then it lets the latter half of the track flare out into some impressive noise and deconstruction.
The thing sounds pretty good as recorded by Ballou, but it’s also pretty early on for him, so it lacks the thud of much of his later work. In general, while Mosquito Control is undeniably loud, it’s also pretty boring, with its attempts at going off the beaten path just seeming like metal kids playing dress up as a “smarter” band.