Isole – The Calm Hunter


10/10 – Review by Katie Halinski

Writers’ block was never something to bother Isole. They released their first four albums in the space of four years, and since then they have been content to scale back their writing and recording in favour of performing live and dabbling in other musical projects. However, they have retained a respectably sized and dedicated fanbase who eagerly await their next move. 2014’s next move is the release of their sixth and most accomplished album, ‘The Calm Hunter,’ a fitting album with which to mark the end of drummer Jonas’ tenure in the band.

Whereas many bands eventually stray from doom – prog seems to be a genre of choice in these instances – Isole have stuck on the forwards path and created a melancholy masterpiece, as beautifully eloquent as it is crushingly heavy, with a rich and crystal-clear production style that flawlessly matches the music. Listening to ‘The Calm Hunter’ gives much the same thrill as touching a medieval manuscript, a bold and almost-living presence that brings a sense of timeless awe.
On ‘The Calm Hunter’, Isole take doom’s dark and bass-heavy template and they add greater emphasis on the operatic nature of the sound, with several nods to the compositional and lyrical talents of Quorthon. Yet, the impression left by Isole’s music is of a potent balance of dark and light: for every bleak moment of nihilism there is the whisper of the phoenix that rises from the ashes, and every black cloud that gathers casts its shadow on the parched ground that awaits the rain that cloud carries.

Throughout the album, Isole show how they can deliver punishing heaviness without compromising the melodic aspects, and in fact Isole show how the two can merge into one seamless musical entity. The musicianship is consummately technical, the incredible ‘Alone In Silence’ notably showcasing the terrific abilities of the entire band, but this technicality does not overshadow an instinctual ear for melody that the band share. Nor do either of these things hamper their constant striving to craft the most expansive and evocative songs they can, with each album managing to outdo the last. In this field, it is the flawless compositional timing Isole have honed that truly marks this album out from all the others. Whether it is a roaring metal maelstrom, a blood-stirring choral passage, or an achingly mournful guitar melody, the band never cut a section short or drag it out. Every moment on this album is played to its optimal length, bringing from each element an atmospheric intensity that, taken across the entire album, crafts something far greater than the sum of its parts.
Perhaps the reason Isole have never felt the need to stray into prog is that they can find the progressiveness within epic doom. They may never perform a startling sideways leap in musical direction, and so ‘The Calm Hunter’ may at first seem to be rather generic compared to the work of their peers. However, once given the time and attention it deserves, the songs’ ability to etch themselves into the heart and mind makes it clear that this album is a sublime pinnacle in the band’s quest to achieve the vision they have been chasing for over two decades. ‘The Calm Hunter’ is an eloquent, powerful album, a triumphant note on which to usher in the last days of 2014.