Talk about thinking man’s metal.
Isis’ third album, “Panopticon,” takes its name from Jeremy Bentham’s 18th century concept of a prison wherein the guards can see of the inmates, but the prisoners cannot tell who is being watched at any given time.
Isis’ Aaron Turner leaned more toward the late Cal lecturer Michel Foucault’s side of things, seeing it as a way of “controlling and segregating individuals,” as he told Decibel in 2004.
Though Isis split in 2010, many consider “Panopticon” the apex of the group’s atmospheric sludge metal, pasting the post-rock notions of emotion and sonic landscape against the rugged foreground of metal.
The result is akin to the other Isis record I’ve heard, 2009’s “Wavering Radiant.” The band flexes its muscle by stretching things out, letting the tension rise and fall. When the sparing lyrics do come, they’re dirty and often compliment the music.
Don’t be fooled by the serene aerial shot of South San Francisco and San Bruno. “Panopticon” has its calm moments, but it also can lash out – “In Fiction” does both. This is one to absorb, not one to wolf down in a single bite.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.