Isole – Anesidora Review

Isole have slowly but inexorably become one of my favorite doom bands over the last 10 years, reliably delivering big albums in the Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, While Heaven Wept tradition. With 2 of those 3 big acts now out of action, Isole have steadily ascended the doom hierarchy ladder as they continued to improve with time. So good have these cats become in the doom space, that it can be easy to forget the same crew also functions as Viking/black metal act Ereb Altor. Double dipping is fine, but it seems clear that their true strength resides in the slow and sorrowful. 2019s Dystopia was a massive album that I loved dearly and still return to regularly, so naturally, I had big expectations for Anesidora, their eighth full-length. And it seems the band wanted to experiment ever so slightly with their sound this time, dialing back the heaviness a tad and leaning into a more emotional, mood-weighted style. I came in expecting high quality, but could it possibly top their last effort? Well, Anesidora certainly gives Dystopia a hard run for the money.

As with last time, Isole greet you at the door with a mailed fist to the melon with massive opener “The Song of the Whales.” It’s the quintessential doom song. Daniel Bryntse’s forlorn vocals quake with emotion, with Crister Olsson joining in at times to add more of a raw, gruff edge. The heavy riffs and melodic harmonies are well conceived, trading the heavy crunch for the melodic trill at key moments for maximum impact. It’s the kind of song you love on first spin and it just gets better with each listen. And there are other major doom nuggets contained within Anesidora as well. “Monotonic Screams” is a gripping and emotive slab o’ doom with heavy riffs and plaintive vocals surging and receding like the tides. There’s a big Fvneral Fvkk vibe present and effective death vocals arrive at a key juncture. This is good stuff indeed. Album centerpiece “In Abundance” is the big star here, borrowing many pages from the Big Book of Candlemass for a romping, stomping journey through existential depression. It’s the kind of classic doom song I’m hardwired to love, and love it I do. Despair drips off every downtrodden note, with lyrics like “I pour myself another drink. That bottle, it greets me like an old friend” conveying a life in shambles. The chorus is huge and poignant and gets me right in the feelz every damn time. Owie.

Without a weak selection anywhere to be found, everything falls in the very good-to-excellent ballpark. “Forgive Me” bears the mark of While Heaven Wept in its extra depressing and fragile angst, and you will feel the character’s pain and fear if you focus on the lyrics and have a shred of empathy. “Open Your Mind” is an oddly hooky doomsters that keeps bouncing around inside my head, with slick moments that remind of both early-era Tad Morose and While Heaven Wept. At a lean 46 minutes, Anesidora feels tight and fast-moving for a doom album. With most cuts in the 5-6 minute window, you get the message but the band doesn’t beat you to death with extended plods. The production is quite good, with a true heaviness in the guitars and a goodly amount of low-end rumble. This allows Bryntse’s voice to cut through like a laser into your sadboi heart.

Speaking of Daniel Bryntse, he does his best job yet here. While I wouldn’t say he’s blessed with the most versatile of voices, he plays to his strengths and sings in clear tones full of emotion. He delivers great feeling to the very buzzkilling lyrics and lets you believe the pain he’s expressing is genuine. He reminds me of Fvneral Fvkk’s Simon Schorneck at times, and some of these songs are quite similar to what Schorneck’s clerical crew did on their stellar Carnal Confessions opus. Bryntse and Crister Olsson excel at crafting old school doom riffs and melancholy harmonies, and Anesidora is weighted down with them. There’s some great moments here courtesy of their axe-work, and they even blend in some blackened flavors to add a darker edge.

Anesidora is a bit lighter and softer than Dystopia, more emotional and vulnerable in a way. Perhaps it’s that fragility and open-hearted approach that makes this such an easy album to wrap yourself in. It’s nearly impossible to say if this is better than Dystopia, as that verdict will come in the fullness of time, but it’s at least its equal, and definitely the more emotionally charged of the two. It seems you can never go wrong relying on Isole. That’s pretty damn comforting in an uncertain world. You will likely see this one on year-end lists, so get in on the ground floor now. Buy or become Isole-ated.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hammerheart
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: March 10th, 2023

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