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Depressive black metal bands often follow the same pattern of evolution during their careers: from the initial hissing demo tapes of simply-structured, repetitive black metal, the bands often end up exploring the territories of a tad lighter and less metal approach even if the aspect of depression is still carried on. One clear example could be Austere’s transformation into a more polished act with clean vocals until the band eventually perished and the similar style was continued on the Katatonia-esque, rocking Grey Waters.
With their major debut Closing a Circle, Isolation has done the same. While this German band’s early career was laden with scruffy lo-fi black/doom metal with screeching vocals and a constant undertone of melancholy, on Closing a Circle the band has made quite a change in approach in comparison to those days: only lightly distorted guitars, more rock oriented beats and languid clean vocals.
Luckily, this combination works for the most part. The starters, introductory ”Something and Nothing” and follow-up ”Closing a Circle”, feature some very captivating melodies and riffs reeking of sadness, even though the lyrics have a more hopeful attitude that the music might suggest (e.g. ”closing another chapter / for the next one to begin” and ”but this is not the end, no”). ”Never Enough” includes some harsher vocals proclaiming the song’s title, but compositionally it’s nothing compared to next one ”This Moment” from which I can spot the latter-era Katatonia influences more clearly. ”Nomad” is a lengthy instrumental fluctuating between the hopeful and wistful melodies to success.
The latter half of the album does not capture my interest as highly as the first side, but undoubtedly a song like ”One Day” is great and ”Fan the Flames” interestingly flirts with old school doom/rock elements. ”There Will Be No Answer” is a brief interlude that seems a little filler-like, but is nonetheless a decent piece before the haunting doom of ”The Wasteland”. ”May You Fare Well” concludes the album with somewhat generic melodies, and perhaps I’d prefer the album to end with preceding track.
Closing a Circle is most likely a love or hate case. It will be appreciated by those who accept evolution towards a more easier and so-called mainstream style and disliked by those who’d prefer the band to retain to their underground roots. I find the new Isolation quite enjoyable and most of the tracks are truly grabbing, plus the breathing production is golden for ears. I’m not sure how much longevity Closing a Circle has, but at least for now it’s a pleasure to put on the album and rejoice in the songs that tend to get stuck in your head as well.
3.5 / 5
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