Are you one of those people who wish Paradise Lost never strayed from the sound of Draconian Times? If so, The Isolation Process has a belated Christmas/Festivus gift with your name on it. The eponymous debut from this Swedish three-piece made up of members of Lingua and Come Sleep (neither of which I ever heard of) features a style strikingly similar to that classic album, while adding select elements of Tool, Sinamore and To Die For. As gothic-tinged doom metal goes, that makes for quite the heady stew in which to dunk your biscuits of despair and oyster crackers of unresolved childhood issues. Dour, gloomy and frowny-faced, you know exactly where this stuff is going, but they pull it off with panache, and when they fire on all cylinders, they craft captivating, empathic hymns to despondency and malaise. That’s what we all long to hear in the cold, dark winter, isn’t it? You betcha!
When I first heard opener “A Simple Gesture,” I looked to see if Nick Holmes himself was appearing on vocals. He isn’t, but that’s how close the delivery of Thomas Henriksson is to olden times Paradise Lost. The same inflections, the same shout/sing roar, the same enunciations, it’s all there, down to the detail. The song itself could easily be wedged into Paradise Lost platters like Icon or the aforementioned Draconian Times and it’s quite a blockbuster of wretched energy that almost drives me to pop open the emotional drinking bourbon and brood darkly. They keep this style going on equally grim, but catchy ditties like “Visions” and the exquisitely morose “Underneath It All,” which threads in hints of Sinamore and even Katatonia.
Other songs like “Victims of the Masses,” “The Dead End” and “Nothing to Collect” have a more pronounced Tool vibe and incorporate post-rock ideas to good effect. “Victims” also reminds me a bit of Aoria in overall mood and the use of slightly blackened tremolo riffs. Moody stuff to be sure, and the downbeat atmosphere works to the band’s advantage, even keeping the nine minutes of “Nothing to Collect” entertaining and compelling.
The only notable downside is that some songs are way more powerful and gripping than others, though none are filler and the album ebbs and flows well. It actually feels too short at around 45 minutes, and that’s a clear indication the band is doing more right than wrong.
Whether paying loving homage to Paradise Lost or dabbling in more post-rocky Tool-isms, Henriksson impresses as a vocalist. His delivery is actually quite diverse as he tries to synch with the various moods the material meanders through, and when called for, he can sing quite emotionally, as he does throughout “Nothing to Collect.” He also handles the guitars and does an admirable job there as well, providing a heavy backbone of meaty riffs to propel the songs along, while taking every chance to showcase forlorn noodling that borrows equally from goth, doom and post-whatever. The rest of the band is solid as well, and though this isn’t flashy or proggy material, they’re tight and have a big sound.
This is solid debut with emotional heft and quality song craft and it’s an insidious grower too. I liked it just fine on first listen, but with repeat spins, it really got into my head, moved the furniture around and had a goth party. Well worth hearing for fans of the bands mentioned above, The Isolation Process is going on my Watch List and I’ll be keeping tabs. Yep, I’m a tab keeper from way back. [What do you mean…”those people”? — AMG].