Reviews Isis Live VI 11.16.07

Isis

Live VI 11.16.07

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—wait, hold up a moment. I finished those last summer. What's with the new release?

Turns out Isis still have a few cards left to play despite, you know, not actually being together anymore. In addition to the project of digitally rereleasing their entire discography (which thankfully includes some of their older and hard-to-find EPs), they released an additional live album earlier this year, the appropriately titled Live VI.

One of the complaints I had about the original reissue series was the lack of diversity in the track selections. For a band with such a deep discography as Isis has, they sure didn't want to branch out very far beyond Oceanic when selecting concerts to release. That's one thing I'm glad to report that this great set improves on, as it features (incredibly good) tracks from all four of their studio albums to the date of the performance. In addition, Isis reach far back into their sizable catalogue to pull out “Hive Destruction” and “Red Sea”, a couple of deep cuts from their very early sludge EPs Mosquito Control and The Red Sea, respectively. In short, unlike the rest of their live discography, it's impossible to criticize this album for a lack of variety.

(It's worth noting, though, that “Weight” makes its appearance on this album for what is now the fifth time out of six live albums—believe me, it's a great song, but I think we can be done with it for a while now. How about a performance with “Dulcinea”, or “Garden of Light”, or literally anything from Wavering Radiant?)

The performance itself is also of the band's highest quality; songs like “So Did We” and “Not in Rivers, But in Drops” easily surpass their studio recordings by a wide margin, and even the somewhat weaker performances like “Gentle Time” and “Hive Destruction” still hold up favourably in comparison. I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes the definitive performance of “In Fiction”, which is likely the 10-minute culmination of everything Isis can do when they really mean it, and the finale of “Carry” is only a few degrees short of literal perfection. The smooth, natural segues between songs are a very welcome touch, making the performance feel like an album flowing in its own right and not a stilted collection of songs. The recording is also crystal clear, featuring none of the unforgivable audio messes that tragically marred some of their other live albums. (Yeah, it's been a full year and I'm still harping on about Live.01. It's just that bad.)

The only thing that is noticeably bad about the album is, unfortunately, the major guest performance. Maria Christopher of 27, who lends her vocal work to “Weight” and “Carry”, does so with near-disastrous effects—her characteristically aggressive and sharp way of singing sounds incredibly out of place, completely contrasting the original levity and distance of the female vocals on the studio recordings. This oversight gets hard to understand when you consider that she was the one that recorded them for Oceanic in the first place; why would she mess them up now?

That all being said, this is still likely my favourite of Isis's live albums. The track selection is pleasantly diverse, the performance is exemplary, the audio quality is superb, and, most importantly, you'll come away from this one feeling satisfied. If you still haven't grabbed an Isis live album yet, make this the one that you do.

8.5 / 10Sarah
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8.5 / 10

8.5 / 10

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