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Every Isis Album Ranked Worst to Best

Isis, perhaps better known as “Isis + Band” when you Google them now because of that other unfortunately-named group, released 5 post-metal auditory journeys that set the bar for everyone in the scene from Rosetta to Pelican. In fact, Isis isn’t just a post-metal band, they are THE post-metal band. Honestly, on any given day, almost any of their five full-length albums could hit the apex. I’ll be watching you from every angle in the Panopticon while you read this and shake your head in disappointment. Oh well.

5. Celestial (2000)

Isis popped out this debut before they really found their own sound; that special noise that makes you think you’re walking on Mars, traversing through the jungle, or traversing through a jungle on Mars. Although this comes across more as a mid-tier homage to Neurosis rather than the four masterpieces that follow, there is plenty of substance to hold your attention. From the opening riff of “Deconstructing Towers,” you instantly feel as if you want to join a demolition crew and start swinging a sledgehammer into random buildings. This song will get your blood pumping and make you headbutt a cactus. The biggest problem with this record is that it isn’t “Panopticon,” “In the Absence of Truth,” or “Oceanic.”

Play it again: “Celestial (The Tower) “
Skip it: Any of the songs with “SGNL” in the title. All of them are less than a minute long, except for one, and we know Isis doesn’t really get cooking unless the track hits 7+ minutes.

4. In the Absence of Truth (2006)

This effort stepped away significantly from their past gritty entries and instead leaned on a slick and smooth performance instead. As they shied away from early Cult of Luna territory and leaned more into Explosions in the Sky country here, the quality didn’t suffer. Aaron Harris’ drumming is absolutely hypnotic to the point where you will feel as if you are in a trance for the majority of the hour then you come out of it realizing you robbed a liquor store, but just for the beef jerky so it’s not that bad. Anyway, it’s Harris’ best performance as he steals the show for sure, along with the ethereal, electronic soundscapes. This is a shiny re-birth for Isis; perhaps it’s the only set of melodies you can listen to comfortably in business casual clothes.

Play it again: “Dulcinea,” “Garden of Light”
Skip it: “All Out of Time, All Into Space”

3. Oceanic (2002)

I can confidently say this is their breakthrough album. It’s everything “Celestial” wanted to be, and bassist Jeff Caxide’s booming sound repeatedly wears out his strings to make that abundantly clear. Rarely does an album bookend itself with the best tracks, but Isis manages to do that here. It knocks you on your ass from the first second and keeps you there until the last one. This 9-song collection could easily go second, or even first. Hell, it would be the best album for a lot of groups out there. But honestly, what choice do I have considering their next two productions?

Play it again: “The Beginning and the End”, “Hym”
Skip it: “Untitled”

2. Wavering Radiant (2009)

What would a good album ranking do without causing a little controversy? While every Isis fan will probably eviscerate me for putting this album above “Oceanic,” I think it is justified. They took the best from their previous work and weaved them seamlessly together here, where the clean textures of “In the Absence of Truth” complement the powerful chugs from “Oceanic.” Together, every one constructed a perfect swan song; they definitely went out on top. When the last song, and thus their musical career, ends, you want nothing more than Aaron Turner to wrap you in a blanket cocoon and rock you gently back and forth while the two of you sway together in a rocking chair.

Play it again: “20 Minutes/40 Years”, “Threshold of Transformation”
Skip it: “Wavering Radiant”, the album title song, just because “Stone to Wake a Serpent” is so awesome that you want to get to it as quickly as possible.

1. Panopticon (2004)

Come on. Was there any other choice here? Well, yes, actually. Every Isis album except for “Celestial” has a case for being at the top. In fact, they definitely all have been my favorite album at some point. Still, I consider this to be their magnum opus. If you listen to one post-metal album in your entire life, make it this one. Aaron Turner’s throaty gusts immediately set the tone from “So Did We” to “Grinning Mouths.” Even when you can’t understand his lyrics, you can tell that Isis means business here. This stroke of perfection has something for every Isis fan. If you don’t agree, there is definitely something wrong with you.

Play it again: Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (then repeat)
Skip it: Any conversation where the person disagrees that Isis is the best post-metal band.