Reviews Isis Live.05

Isis

Live.05

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.

As far as track selection goes, Live V is pretty weak; it consists of a live performance of Oceanic in its entirety. While Oceanic is no doubt a fantastic album, this is still an issue for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, one of the benefits of live albums is that they offer an opportunity for a band to display the variety of music they have written over their career—they're not just limited to individual albums. Very rarely can a band justify the existence of a live album that consists entirely of a track-by-track replay of an album their fans already own, especially without any additional material. I know this recording comes from a special performance of that album, but my point is still legitimate. Secondly, Isis' live catalogue is already flooded (hah) with material from Oceanic. Even though the songs from that album are top-grade, we don't need to listen to three or four different live versions of them. In fact, this album was originally released in 2009—why not release a performance with tracks from Wavering Radiant or In the Absence of Truth?

Another nitpick is the static quality of the performance. Though inevitably some of the dynamics and balance from Oceanic are different in a live setting, pretty much every track is note-for-note repeated from the album. There are a few exceptions, like the absence of the female vocals, the slightly shortened version of “Carry,” and the belch-like sound effects on “Maritime.” However, most of these changes are relatively minor and will go unnoticed.

Though it could be easily argued that this album is therefore superfluous next to the studio version, I actually found Live V a refreshing take on Oceanic. Having heard that album many times by now, it was nice to hear a new, if only subtly different, take on the same music. Instead of boring me as I expected, it was just fresh enough to renew my fascination with the material.

The performance itself is undeniably top-quality as well. There are almost no flaws to speak of at all, which makes it all the more moving. Songs like “The Other” and “Hym” are particularly standout, the latter especially during the crashing finale to the album. Though these probably aren't the strongest versions of “The Beginning and the End” or “Weight” to be found on Isis' live recordings, they are still well above-average for the band.

A problem with Isis' live discography as a whole is the variable audio quality. Thankfully, Live V comes out on the positive end of this scale. The audio was taken directly from the soundboard, making it as crisp as possible. Unfortunately, this means the audience noise sounds a bit far-off and weaker than usual, and it somewhat dampens the 'live' feel of the album. However, they're also not getting in the way of the music. It's a trade-off, but it's certainly better than trying to listen to, say, Live.01 again.

As a culmination of their live collection, Live V is actually a quite respectable finish. Though we've heard almost every track from this album performed live already by this point, this recording has some of the tightest performances and clearest audio you're likely to find in any of their live releases. Even if you've already heard Oceanic a dozen times, you'll find Live V a stimulating new take on the original. If you pick up any Isis live album, this should be it.

8.0 / 10Sarah
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