Isole – Silent Ruins

There is a lot to be said for consistency. Churning out exactly what the fans expect, ticking all the boxes- guitar solo here, drum roll there, guttural death scream to finish.

There’s a lot more to be said for artistic endeavour and progression: watching an artist grow and develop a vision and sense of place.  With the release of their fourth album, Silent Ruins, the Swedish doom-meisters of Isole have managed to achieve both: an album that delights their existing fan base should have more casual listeners take the opportunity to investigate their very particular brand of proggy doom metal.

2008’s Bliss of Solitude was greeted with pretty much universally warm and open arms but to my mind it was the equivalent of a bad Chinese takeaway- it starts off well, hitting all the right notes, but ends with you strangely unsatisfied and wanting something more substantial. In much the same way, Bliss of Solitude had its moments but it was, to my mind, let down by more perfunctory songcraft and a peculiar sense of stasis.

Silent Ruins although not a stylistic giant leap forward is much more a substantial piece of work and the band know it. Eleven minute opening track From the Dark is so utterly uncompromising, so despairing and harrowing in its outlook that you suspect the band are trying to put you off- such is its uncompromising nature. They are merely toying with us. It’s a statement of intent: a benchmark of the doom delights to come and it works very well indeed.

Forlorn is probably the most obvious song title I’ve seen in ages, a chugging riff underscoring some excellent percussion and doomy lyricism. Hollow Shrine has a gothic streak throughout its slow, chugging, and depressed rhythms, building upon the bleak vision the band have created.

Peccatum is one of the highlights on the album, drenched in sorrow, forlorn melancholy; the My Dying Bride influences permeate the track, adding to the sense of foreboding drama.

Closing epic Dark Clouds– and there is probably no better word to describe the twelve minutes of shadowy metal is a shambling stormy and dark psychodrama with epic guitar work and orchestral backing that builds and builds to a finale that will leave you wanting more, despite its length and slow sullen pacing.

Drawbacks? There are two to my mind- firstly, this is a solely mid tempo record which, whilst giving a good sense of pace and intensity does remove the light and shade that truly classic doom records evoke. Second: it really is deeply annoying to listen to some record company employee tell me repeatedly that “you are listening to the new Isole album, Silent Ruins, Redemption Part One” whilst Im enjoying my preview copy. Please stop it.

The production on the record is polished- I don’t mean that in a saccharine, poodle- rock way. The recording captures the drama of the vocals, the intensity of the musicianship and the layers of unfolding melodrama within. If you had a encyclopedia of heavy metal and needed to write an entry for “mid tempo doom metal classic” you could do far worse than put a picture of Isole’s fourth record next to it. Job done, as they say. Impressive stuff.

written by Mat Davies


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