Reviews Isis Live.02



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.

Of all of the recordings in this collection of albums, Live.02 has to be the best sounding. Its audio is taken from a Swedish radio broadcast recording, and consequently, it is the clearest sounding and most defined of all of their live releases. This is a good thing because it means that the audio on this recording actually does justice to the subtlety and dynamicism that characterizes Isis' finest pieces. Granted, it's still not as pleasant-sounding as a professionally recorded live album—there are the occasional strains in the audio, most noticeably on “Weight.” However, they are few and far between. They are generally minor and come off as irrelevant to the overall experience. Though the audio doesn't give the album quite enough space for the music to truly show its full strength and potential, it gives it just enough room to stretch its legs out and get comfortable. It may not be the best possible quality live recording, but you certainly won't be attempting to gouge out your eardrums with a rusty fork like you might while listening to Live.01.

Even though the Isis live catalogue is deluged with material from Oceanic, this is one of the better recordings of material from that album. All of the highlights from it are present, as well as a pair of selections from Celestial. As such, this is the strongest and most well-rounded selection of pieces from early Isis you can find in their live catalogue. It's merely extra icing on the cake that this performance includes a few interesting novelties amongst Isis' live releases. This is the only one of Isis' live recordings to feature the vocal track from “Weight,” and its at an audible volume to boot. The vocals on the studio recording, while pleasantly produced, are mixed so low that 4'33” might be considered too loud in comparison. In addition, this album contains an extended version of “Celestial” that combines both the studio version (subtitiled “The Tower”) and the Justin Broadrick remix from the 2001 follow-up EP SGNL>05 (subtitled “Signal Fills the Void”). The juxtaposition of the two vastly different versions of this song is surprisingly effective. “Signal Fills the Void” is the perfect coda to “The Tower,” which had always been an unsatisfying listen for its unusually weak ending. While the other pieces may not feature any interesting deviations from their studio recordings, they all are also rendered relatively well from their original versions.

Unfortunately, this album does suffer from its share of issues. There are a few small, but noticeable mistakes in the performance itself. Though the questionable notes on “Carry” may go without notice, the tempo flubs on “Celestial” and “The Beginning and the End” are jarring enough to sour the mood of those pieces. Thankfully, these are relatively small issues, and they are not nearly potent enough to deter the average listener. Deeply devoted fans of Isis may be disappointed by the less-than-perfect execution of the set, but even then, those are only small parts of the performance. The whole is still quite excellent.

Out of Isis' live catalogue, this is one of the stronger albums available for purchase. The recording quality is unparalleled compared to the rest of their live releases, and the tracklisting is optimal for reducing the presence of weaker and redundant tracks. While the album itself does have a few issues, and it certainly isn't excellent enough to stand alongside classic live albums like In Rio or Made in Japan, it is not worth discounting entirely, either. As far as Isis goes, this is one of the better, if not the best, live releases you'll find from their collection of reissues. While the few issues present with the audio and performance may upset the most dire and hardcore of Isis fans, everyone else from first-time listeners to devoted fans will find this album an enjoyable listen.

7.5 / 10Sarah
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7.5 / 10

7.5 / 10

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