Isis - London Koko
Eugene Robinson is one scary looking bloke. Usually the frontman of deranged Jesus Lizard-esque rockers Oxbow, he’s decided here to perform as a duo, with added cello. How sweet. However, that doesn’t stop the guy from being one seriously intense dude, who frequently strips down to his underpants at gigs, revealing a tattooed and muscular frame (he’s into his gym workouts, apparently), and shadowboxes onstage. Author of a book entitled Fight: Or, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Ass-Kicking But Were Afraid You’d Get Your Ass Kicked For Asking, he once punched a member of the audience at a gig who taunted him. Here, with stripped-down music behind him, he’s still decided to get down to his strange black lycra briefs and skin-tight top. The ‘singing’ is mostly incomphrensible barking and falsettos, with frequent expletives, but it certainly makes for interesting viewing, as he prowls round the stage, staring out the audience.
Japanese trio Boris, meanwhile, are here to rock. With a differing palette on their records which range from low-end heavy drone metal (their first album, Absolutego, included a sixty-minute track) in an Earth/Sun O)))) style (the latter of whom they’ve collaborated with and are labelmates), pastoral acoustic guitar interludes, full-on rawk Black Sabbath style riffs, and collaborations with the likes of compatriot and noise-nutter Merzbow, it’s difficult to know what to expect when they come on. Live, they aim to go for the gut, rocking out in glorious style against a backdrop of a huge gong, while drummer Atsuo occasionally growls at the audience. One track, most likely from their accessible Pink album, sounds like “Paranoid” by Sabbath. Cool. While an excruciatingly loud guitar loop repeats ad infinitum for the last five minutes or so of their set, drummer Atsuo mounts an amp facing the audience and stagedives, before returning to the stage and bashing the gong, first with his sticks, and then with the cymbals of his drum kit.
Isis come onstage to the sound of madness-inducing multiple sped-up voices over the tannoy, and launch into a blistering set that concentrates mostly on their new album In The Absence of Truth but also takes in material from their last two albums, Panopticon (named after prisons designed so that the officials can see all their prisoners but not vice-versa, leading to “invisible omniscience”; the phrase is often now used in wider society when referring to CCTV and surveillence) and Oceanic. Their music is often head-swimmingly dense and heavy, yet executed with precision. The phrase “post-metal” that’s frequently banded at the band could be an apposite one after all, with their sound combining Aaron Turner’s growling voice and heavy riffs alongside laptop sounds that could almost be lifted from Fennez’s oeuvre. While “So Did We” from Panopticon is greeted enthusiastically by the more testosterone-driven members of the audience who form small moshpits around Koko’s plush interior - and a reappearance by Robinson, who wonders around the stage grunting and making strange facial gestures, leads to cheers - elsewhere in Isis’ set there are parts that sound like they could be straight out of some weird hybrid of metal and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. This is particularly the case with the last song, with its long, droning climax, which leaves the audience feeling dazed and blinking in the white stage lights for minutes after the band leave the stage.