One of the things that’s always drawn me to progressive rock is the diversity within the genre itself. Though the King Crimson “jazz oriented psychedelica” approach seems to weave its way into the tapestry no matter which direction you take it, there are so many different directions that people have taken it over the years, and new artists still continue to breathe new life into progressive rock, constantly creating their own kaleidoscope of trinkets to bring to the table. This is especially heard with Isthmusia out of Kingston, WA. and their self-titled,October 2014 release.
Since the 90’s, many progressive rock bands tend to go for the more “metal” approach which has brought Dream Theater so much fame. But it’s really refreshing to hear Isthmusia take a more laid back approach that hints more at the stylings of Marillion or maybe even Devin Townsend’s mellower material. The album opener “Sapient” which is more of an intro leading directly into “The Empyrean” is a beautiful introduction to Isthmusia’s more spacey approach that highlights technical skill while still allowing the listeners ears to breathe and take in the atmosphere without becoming fatigued. We’re then seamlessly transitioned to the apt-titled “Spindrift” that frantically builds the tension which then is perfectly brought back down to the peaceful “Adrift Among the Sentinels”.
That’s not to say that these guys can’t rock out. The second half of this 30 minute treat starts off with my personal favorite “The Travail of Storms” an in your face whirlwind which is offset beautifully by more melodic “A Testament to Abnegation” before slowly bringing it back up with the solid mini-epic “In Tongues”.
There are no vocals on the album, which to me really highlights the talent that these guys bring to the table. The Logan Hixon’s bass playing transitions beautifully between finding a rhythmic groove to back up Matt Robinson’s spinning fretwork, and then doubling him for added effect which also serves to highlight Michael Esparo’s tasty drum chops.
What impresses me the most about Matt Robinson’s guitar playing is the way his high leads offset his lower fret work, which occasionally fooled me into thinking that there was a high fret bass solo happening. All in all, the writing and arrangements by the band are absolutely top notch, and are worth a listen to any music fan with an open mind and a diverse palate.
I’m truly excited to see where these guys take their incredible vision of atmospheric instrumental progressive rock. Lead on guys…we’ll follow you on the journey.
Listen to the self-titled album HERE