When Isis broke up, it sucked. Why? Well, Isis was part of an elite breed, a rare clique of bands that embodied creativity, musicianship and a desire to buck trends and focus on creating a lasting and inspirational body of work. Album after album, one after the other, the sheer quality of what Isis released was above reproach. Sure they had their Neurosis comparisons, but Isis stood in nobody’s shadow. Always keeping the fans in mind, Isis have one last hurrah for those still hungry for their sound.
That hurrah is Temporal, a two-disc collection of unreleased tracks, rarities, alternate takes and covers. What Isis gives us here is stripped down versions of their more epic tracks. For instance, the demo version of “Threshold Of Transformation” is less polished, a rougher and more organic version of the original. “Ghost Key” is instrumental onTemporal and the keyboards are gone. Interestingly, I like this version better. The Temporal version of “Ghost Key” focuses more on the excellent guitar interplay as well as the structural movements.
“Willis Dissolve” isn’t as atmospheric as the Panopticon version but it’s more melancholy and the demo quality gives it a raw sound. One of my favorite tracks is the alternate version of “Grey Divide”, which is sixteen minutes of glacial song movements, light guitar work that suddenly falls to great heaviness and a center section that’s, for lack of a better term, airy and open, not as dense as most of Isis’s work.
The second disc gives us covers and more rarities. As a devout follower of Godflesh, I shudder to think of a band covering the iconic tune “Streetcleaner”. That being said, Isis executes it with great effect. I wasn’t as big a fan of the cover of Black Sabbath’s “Hand Of Doom” mainly because it lacks the creepiness of the original. The real reason to revel over the second disc is “Way Through Woven Branches”, a song originally released on a 2010 split with The Melvins and one of the band’s last recordings. The song has always been a definitive and magical statement from Isis, so I’m happy those who missed the split will hear it.
Let me be clear on something, this is not a collection for the curious new fan or those uninitiated to the Isis sound. If you’re just sticking your toe into Isis waters, buy any of their proper releases first before venturing into Temporal. For longtime fans , this collection is a nice final statement, the exclamation point on a career that deserves to be shouted about.