Reviews

Isotope, Isotope (Carbonized Records, 2019)

From the first time I encountered Isotope I was smitten—playing crusty, metallic, hardcore heavily influenced as much by classic European filth like Scandinavian Jawbreaker-era Anti-Cimex as the sweeping melodic power of Burning Spirits legends Death Side, they completely blew me away.

I was so excited about them that I wrote them a thank-you note for being the best band in Oakland I had heard in ages. From their initial demo in 2014 to their ferocious 2015 EP Midnight Soldier and 2017’s Wake Up Screaming cassette they’ve slowly dripped out a determinedly edited progression towards this, their eponymous debut LP. It was five years worth the wait.

From the steamroller of the initial track, “Departed” through the closing blast of “Phoenix Ashes,” Isotope soars through track after track of electrifying and powerful hardcore punk. Rarely slowing down to catch their breath, they paint a relentless and desperate cry in a world of madness.  

There is a rapidity and snarling approach to their riffing that brings to mind the finest elements of Totalitarian Sodomy-era World Burns to Death and Wolfbrigade’s In Darkness You Feel No Regrets—it is just this ferocious hammering assault that provides a crushing backdrop to lyrics spattered like an acid filled balloon to the face against the ills of the world. There is a sincerity present in the approach that is makes it all the more effective and separates it from many of the other bands in this genre world. 

Photo: Michael D. Thorn

It should go without saying that I’m beyond excited for this release—watching a band evolve and hone their sound into this razor sharp blade that cuts clean all the bullshit of this world is always exciting.

There was a time when it felt like bands such as this ruled the world—a melding of At the Gates style metal with the noise-not-music approach of Discharge and the complex savagery of Japanese bands like Bastard. When it works, it really works—Isotope are definitely a case where it really works.

Photo: Michael D. Thorn

Consciously crafted yet not derisive for even a moment—Isotope’s debut full-length (out on April 5) is certainly one you should sit up and pay attention to.

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