While I could go on and on about the devastating magnificence of Isolert’s new album, World In Ruins, at this point I only want to consider the three songs that close this astonishing record — a trio that includes the title track, which we’re premiering today.
That concluding trio begins with “Staring At A Path Towards Nowhere“, a song I’ve written about before when it first appeared (you can find it here), whose title neatly sums up the current age. Immediately electrifying, the song’s soaring, sweeping intensity is near-celestial in its blazing magnificence. To be sure, the vocals sound like rampaging demons in the depths of hell, but even those voices sound like glorifications (of great terrors).
The other dimension of the song, which emerges when the pace slows, is a feeling of crushing grief, delivered with stately solemnity and a sense of magnificence, but conjoined with screams of harrowing vocal intensity. The segue from that passage back into the heavenly firestorm is beautifully done, as is the reprise of sorrow that comes through a beautiful but soul-stricken guitar solo that extends through a glorious maelstrom of sound and brings the song to a heart-breaking close.
Once you listen to that spectacular track (one of the most spectacular I’ve heard this year), you might wonder how in the world Isolert could follow it without creating some kind of let-down. The song that bears that burden is the album’s title track, “World In Ruins“, which we’re presenting today.
As the drums tumble and pound, the guitars pick up the sorrow in the preceding track’s finale and carry it forward, like a parent cradling a dead child. The anguish in the music is unmistakable, but the guitar solo is striking in its soulfulness and emotional intensity. And that intensity soon engulfs the song as a whole, as the drumming becomes more tumultuous, the riffing more unchained (yet still penetratingly dolorous), and the vocals shattering in their larynx-scarring screams.
The combined impact of those ingredients is breathtaking, and even more so when the drums begin blasting and the chords writhe in a splendrous mania. But awe-inspiring splendor never seems far away in this album, and so here too the music rises to epic heights of glory, creating sensations that are both gloomy and crazed. But in the final minute, prefaced by a wrenching gurgling growl, the music transforms into a slow guitar instrumental that’s sublime — but also very effectively creates a vision of standing in the midst of rubble, in the pale glow of flames, staring at the shattered remains of everything we knew.
Isolert commented to us about the song in these words:
“The song we are sharing today is not only the title track of the album, but the penultimate composition – the cataclysm destroying all before the final scream into the void that is the album’s conclusion. It is despair, it is woe, it is violence, it is death; the result of everything humanity has done to itself. As it builds towards the inevitable end we are left alone, lamenting the loss of everything but knowing that we deserved it all. So, stand amidst the rubble, in the pale glow of the flames. Look at what we hath wrought… enjoy your World In Ruins.”
And then the album closes with “Light… Has Abandoned Us“. True to Isolert’s quoted words above, the song does indeed become a scream into the void. In its mid-paced opening, the music is coiled with tension and laden with a feeling of hopelessness, but the band explode in an assaulting mass of cyclonic guitars, machine-gun drum tumult, and livid vocal insanity. The guitars whip and whirl, spiral in gleaming tones and burrow under the skin with utmost menace.
This closing song is more than 10 minutes in length, and is the band’s most stunning achievement on an album that really is stunning from start to finish. Its scale and power are dramatic and daunting, but Isolert also make room near the end to slow the pace and drag the music, through the reverberation of simple, scratchy notes, into a deep well of despondency. Even when the drums join in with a ceremonious, processional rhythm, accompanied by mournful spoken words, this concluding movement is entrancing — even though it’s so full of heartache, suffused with the feeling that all light has indeed abandoned us.
And of course these are just three songs among the total of seven. Perhaps some day I’ll get off my chest the way I feel about the first four. For now I’ll just repeat that they’re all stunning too.
World In Ruins is set for a November 11 release by Nihilistische KlangKunst, which is making the album available on CD and vinyl LP formats. It features compelling cover art by Nikos Stavridakis (VisionBlack).
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