Isis make their final stand in Boston

A review of Isis and The Melvins at the Paradise Rock Club on June 21, 2010

, Contributing Writer

It was a bittersweet night at the Paradise Rock Club on Monday as former Bostonians Isis closed out a two-night stand at the famed rock club. On one hand, there was the incredible double bill they shared with The Melvins. On the other hand, having recently announced they would be parting ways after the conclusion of their ongoing tour, the show also served as their last in Boston after forming the band in the hub twelve years ago.

It’s always sad to see a good band break up but it’s especially sad when the band is as good as Isis. Perhaps, Melvins bassist Jared Warren put it best when he stated, “Twelve years is a long time for any five guys to stay together”. Certainly, it’s a long time for any group to not only stay together but to remain at the top of their game by releasing great music.

After the Melvins set the bar high with an outstanding set of their own, Isis hit the stage and delivered a set that completely eclipsed it. After a quick “Good evening” from singer/guitarist Aaron Turner, the band launched right into “From Sinking”, a fan favorite and a classic cut from their genre defining album Oceanic. There was not a still head into the room as the powerful riff of the song washed over the ‘dise. The massive riffs would come long and often, each injecting loads of energy into each song courtesy of guitarist Michael Gallagher. He and bassist Jeff Caxide rocked back and forth all night as lead singer Turner, fully clad with long hair and a large beard, alternated between a soothing, low croon to harsh, loud growls.

The band played a number of songs from their most recent albums, Wavering Radiant and In the Absence of Truth, such as “Threshold of Transformation”, “Not in Rivers, But in Drops” and “Ghost Key”. But the highlights of the set came with some of their older cuts, such as a soaring rendition of “So Did We”, the opening track to 2004’s masterpiece Panopticon. The band only addressed the crowd once, thanking everyone for coming out and stating how much of an honor it was to play in Boston where they formed 12 years ago. They then dedicated their next song, “False Light”, to everyone in the room, another fan favorite from Oceanic. The thundering six minute riff shook the entire house and had multiple fists in the air.

The pinnacle of the night was the band’s two song encore. Isis came out to “In Fiction”, a song that slowly built from nothing until it exploded into a massive riff and then held on and continued to burst forth for another three minutes. The band swayed and moved around the stage like it was the last time they would ever play it and, in a way, it is. From there, they flowed into “The Beginning and the End” which perfectly balanced low, soothing, ambient riffs and loud, crushing guitar riffs ending with Turner and Caxide both on their knees hitting their pedals and twisting knobs in a fit of passion. Turner then stood up, thanked the crowd again, and just like that Isis had sadly rocked their last show in Boston.

Earlier in the night, grunge/sludge metal legends the Melvins took to the stage. The veteran band, who have been credited as the grandfathers of grunge, delivered a set that was focused more on the band’s new material with a few old classics sprinkled in. Bassist Jarred Warren was fully clad with a tunic and sparkly cape like he had just come from fighting a dragon while guitarist/singer Buzz Osbourne was dressed in a long black robe with a collar that covered his neck with his trademarked explosion of gray hair.

The Melvins kicked off their set with a cover of Flipper’s “Sacrifice” and quickly followed with “Civilized Worm” and “The Kicking Machine” as Osbourne bounced around the stage to the groovy riffs. The focus of their set seemed to fall mostly on the two pronged drum attack of Dale Crover and Coady Williams. Crover has been with the Melvins since their first album in 1987 but the band didn’t bring a second drummer into the mix until 2006’s (A) Senile Animal. The two together played a furious blast of percussion often trading off back and forth, especially in the “Evil New War God” off the band’s new album The Bride Screamed Murder.

About midway through their set, the band stopped to address the crowd, talking about the real focus of the night, Isis. Osbourne dedicated their next song “Anaconda”, a classic cut from their Bullhead album, to their tour mates.  The highlight of the second half came in the form of “The Water Glass”, which featured an almost military march-esque sing along as Osbourne shouted and the rest of the band echoed his call. The Melvins closed out their set with classics “Hung Bunny” and “Roman Bird Dog”, a nearly 17 minute blast of epic guitar riffs.

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