It is with some slight trepidation that I enter London's Scala – one of the finest venues in the capital – in preparation to witness a performance by gloom-rockers Isis. The name alone has a fabled ring; as though the group were preordained in their position as scene forefathers.

But Egyptian terminology aside, the legend of Isis is based on their willingness to experiment with expected rock structure – preferring instead to create endurance pieces which focus on the evolution and development of structure. Rarely does Isis return to the scorched ground recently trodden; instead preferring to plough a single relentless furrow ever onwards. It is this reputation which causes a slight frisson of excitement to run among the assembled faithful before the group stride onto the stage.

Before the main event young pretenders Miami's pop-metal outfit Torche, however, have the stage. It must have been a crazy year for the band. Their second album 'Meanderthal' has had critics falling over themselves to praise it and their star has been relentlessly on the rise. Yet the group is also about to part ways with long time guitarist Juan Montoya. For some Montoya is the very epitome of the band, but he will depart the outfit following an appearance at Mike Patton's curated All Tomorrow's Parties due to "ongoing personal issue."

Tonight though nothing seems capable of slowing the band. After touring underground dives for years the band is making the most of their time in the limelight; with lead singer Steve Brooks playing with a Cheshire Cat grin throughout the cacophonous show. Fans favourite 'Grenades' is particularly well received, along with 'Healer' and 'Triumph of Venus' in a show that seems to be more of an assault than anything else.

Any atmosphere developed during the support slow is, however, somewhat diluted by the bizarre inclusion of a substandard comedian reading a selection of weak one-liners from a clipboard. Luckily some particularly vitriolic heckling promptly addresses the situation, allowing the show to begin.

Isis albums tend to draw on cohesive themes, each exploring a chosen territory in detail. In the flesh this theme hold true. Although the group draw from their back catalogue this evening, the show operates a cohesive whole. Employing a familiar bass, guitar, keys and drums line-up the set is anything but conventional – producing a tremendous authority, but with upmost control and precision.

The set is meticulously crafted – drawing from their latest opus 'In the Absence of Truth' – with the group's post rock sensibilities to the fore. As each track builds to an awesome crescendo melodies shine briefly before being submerged, only to remerge mutated moments later. Despite the monolithic appearance of Isis their work is densely textured and intricate.

One key element in this sound is the visceral growl of frontman Aaron Turner. His voice has the classic hard rock snarl; it is also capable of soaring about the fray to create almost beatific clarity. The tremendous variety of this contribution is one of the key factors in ensuring Isis are able to distance themselves from the also-rans of the genre – of which there are many.

'So Did We' play well to an engaged audience, along with 'Not in Rivers, but in Drops', but for the majority of the crowd this is a single experience. Tracks come and go, but the power and aural dexterity of the group are defining features of this, a unique and intense show.










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Commenting On: Scala, London, 4/12/2008 - Isis and Torche








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