Two years after the break-up of post-metal juggernaut Isis, Aaron Turner once again turned the heavy community on its collective ear in 2012 when he announced that his influential imprint Hydra Head Industries was ceasing to release any more new albums just shy of its 20th anniversary as one of the most adventurous and innovative metal labels America has ever known.
For those who have classic titles by the likes of Jesu, Cave In, Harvey Milk, Boris, Oxbow, Merzbow or any of the other envelope-pushing loud rock acts in his or her record collection, news of HH’s demise is indeed tragic, given further significance since it was posted by Turner on the label’s site September 11th of this past year. Hydra Head put out metal records for metalheads who see the heavy in Arvo Pärt and Autechre as lucidly as they do in Accept.
But at least fans sitting mourning in lieu of this disappointing turn of events can rest easy in the fact that one of the last slabs of new wax to be adorned with the HH logo is also one of the best they’ve ever unleashed. In No, the fifth LP from Turner’s post-metal supergroup Old Man Gloom that also includes Cave In bassist Caleb Scotfield, Converge guitarist Nate Newton, Zozobra drummer Santos Montano and new member Luke Scalora on various found sounds and electronics. Though primarily inspired by the dark ambience of Fennesz and Black to Comm as much as the minimalist metal of Earth and Sunn O))), the material comprising NO is far more advanced than anything the band has offered since forming in 1999. "Rats" sounds like something off a Flipside magazine flexi-disc promoting Touch and Go Records in 1988, while "Shadowed Hand" recalls the gothic Western crawl of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ John Hillcoat film scores. But if you want to really find the pig rib of NO skip directly to closing cut "Shuddered Earth", a 14-minute mind bender that can be hailed as the Old Man Gloom answer to Sonic Youth’s "The Diamond Sea" tailor made for diehard Isis fans still holding out hope for a short-lived split.
But if Old Man Gloom just leaves you misty-eyed for the past, dive into Ipecac’s recently released three-disc odds-and-ends collection chronicling the majority of Isis’s existence for your nostalgia fix. Temporal is a disgust of riches for fans of the band, whose split in 2010 has left a chasm in the metal world that’s damn near impossible to refill. Among the treasures featured on the audio portion of this set–14 songs spread across two CDs–include a series of previously unreleased demos of their most well-known tracks ("Ghost Key" and "False Light" are among the brood as well as this collection’s outtake title track from 2009), covers of Godflesh’s "Streetcleaner" and Black Sabbath’s "Hand of Doom", a pair of tracks from the group’s 2010 split LP with The Melvins and an acoustic version of "20 Minutes/40 Years" that will drop you to the ground. There’s also a great DVD containing all of the Isis music videos you never got to see on MTV, namely for "In Fiction" and "Holy Tears".
The universe of extreme sound will never be the same without the input of Hydra Head Industries and Isis. But with the release of these two great titles, their existences will not go in vain.