Reviews Isis Live I 9.23.03

Isis

Live I 9.23.03

A year after their dissolution, post-metal powerhouse Isis is preparing to digitally re-release its entire live discography on a fortnightly basis throughout the summer of 2011. The set of five albums unfortunately does not contain any new material, but for those of you who skipped acquiring them while the band was still active, some of these albums may satiate your need for some fresh Isis material to listen to.

Whichever of these albums you may chose to pick up, however, Live.01 has to be the worst possible choice. There are a dozen issues with this release right from the get-go, not the least of which is the audio quality of the recording. Like much of Isis' live material, this live release was actually taken from a fan bootleg, and frankly, it shows. While the performance itself is played quite well, you'd never know it just from listening to the recording. One of the things that makes Isis a great band is the thickness and texture of their music—there are a lot of things going on at once, and there is a lot of depth and subtlety to their writing. Much to the detriment of this album, a lot of that complexity becomes lost with the recording, which sounds more like a thin, messy, and loud smorgasbord of noise. This becomes especially apparent on the opening of “Hym,” where the vocals just become a strained mess of unlistenable distortion, and again with the cymbal crashes in the first section of “The Beginning and the End.” The distortion can become literally painful to listen to at times, especially when their music tends toward the forte end of the spectrum. Even with the pieces that fare comparatively well with the distortion, such as “Carry,” the audio quality can make the music sound flat-out obnoxious at times. This can make listening to this album a chore, even for the most forgiving listener.

Another big problem for Live.01 is the redundancy of its setlist. One large issue with Isis' live discography as a whole is the dearth of material from albums other than Oceanic, and that becomes especially apparent on this album. Even though this was their first live recording to be released, the band had two albums and five EPs under their belt at the time. Despite this, there is no material from any of their earlier releases to be found here. At the time of its release, that was probably a good selling point to help highlight their new, fresher material. Looking back now, though, that means that this entire album has become redundant with subsequent releases—the entire tracklist of this album is repeated with other selections on Live V, which is actually a performance of Oceanic in its entirety. Even if you manage to skip purchasing that release as well, you can still find “Carry,” “Weight” and “The Beginning and the End” on still more of Isis' live recordings. It's only additional insult to injury that this recording isn't even a complete performance—the audience member who recorded it managed to miss their concert opener, “From Sinking.”

All of these issues would be forgivable if this performance happened to be particularly spectacular, but the unfortunate reality is that it really isn't. There's nothing here that is noteworthy or particularly well-executed, and while I'll concede that it's still a good performance, that alone doesn't make it worth your time or money. Given the options presented in the rest of Isis' live discography, it seems like there is literally no reason whatsoever to purchase this album. Even if you're a fanatic completionist, having this album doesn't really add anything to your musical collection other than a few .mp3 files or a compact disc and the album cover.

Oh, okay, the album cover has been updated from the original release. It is now a navy blue instead of black, and its design more closely matches the cover style from Live V. I hope you will pardon me if I don't exactly give a shit.

The bottom line is this: if you really, really love Isis and you absolutely must have everything they've released, then you won't be disappointed with Live.01. It's not a terrible performance, and it's not too much of a strain to listen to. And if that's what you want, more power to you. However, if you are someone who is conscious with her money or who only wants the best Isis has to offer, you will be disappointed when you discover that this album is more of the same stuff that you can find on their other releases. I humbly suggest you skip this one. Regardless of whether or not this was a well-received album at the time of its original release back in 2004, time has not been kind to it, and here in 2011, there is nothing worth going back for.

2.0 / 10Sarah
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