Review and photos By Cara Cross
Farewell shows are often the best shows. The musicians are reflective, the set lists are interesting and the crowd is packed with loyal fans looking to catch a final glimpse of a band that means so much.
Those fans were out in full force Monday night to say goodbye to post-metal pioneers ISIS at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver’s gritty Downtown Eastside.
I wasn’t surprised to hear ISIS was calling it quits. I suspected as much when they first announced this mini North American tour, which saw them return to several cities they only just visited to promote their latest EP, Wavering Radiant.
Nevertheless, I was keen to watch the band that stood on the shoulders of giants like Neurosis and Godflesh to help build the post-metal genre.
First up was Jakob, a three-piece instrumental band from New Zealand. Their melodic brand of ambient post-rock got the show off to a mellow start. But that didn’t seem to bother the crowd, whose heads were bobbing throughout the band’s 30-minute set, which was reminiscent of a lighter Russian Circles.
At the other end of the spectrum was Brooklyn-based Tombs, who delivered a heavy, muddy set. While the audience was abuzz about the band’s performance, I was not as impressed. While they put on a decent show, I found their sound to be a bit predictable and a little flat.
But really, I was there for the headliner. And ISIS did not disappoint.
While the band had a minimal stage presence, their music had maximum impact. Frontman and vocalist Aaron Turner delivered his classic gutteral growls, layered over heavy guitar riffs and interspersed with clean, melodic breakdowns.
The evening’s set list heavily favoured tracks from Wavering Radiant, fan-favourite Panopticon and breakthrough album Oceanic.
The band’s performance was tight. There were moments when you could feel their electricity, such as during their emotive and near-perfect rendition of “In Fiction.”
There were also a few warm and fuzzy moments, from an anonymous “We love you ISIS!” to Turner’s brief words of thanks to the crowd: “This may be your first time seeing us tonight, or maybe you’ve seen us several times. Either way, thank you.”
It was a bittersweet moment when the band left the stage for the final time. But as fans slowly drifted away, they could rest assured these talented and prolific musicians would live to play another day, even if in a different incarnation than the one they saw on stage tonight.
The tour wraps up later this month in Montreal, after which ISIS will complete their final EP.