72. Isis, 'Oceanic' (2002)
Although its members came up in the same New England hardcore/metal hotbed that spawned Converge, Cave In and Killswitch Engage, Isis charted their own path. Fronted by singer, guitarist and conceptualist Aaron Turner, the band took its leads from Melvins, Swans and especially Neurosis, whose mix of punishing heaviness, surprising delicacy and avant-garde sound design would prove strongly influential. Oceanic, an archetypal 2002 saga about a desperate man seeking a female counterpart, was a decisive turning point, its songs endowed with atmospheres and textures so imaginative you practically could see them. The album's front half packs an irresistible tidal surge behind Turner's desolate howl. But the band's sense of dynamic variety was never keener: The first half of "Carry" drifts in slow-moving stasis, trading on the sharp contrast of Turner's and Michael Gallagher's guitars, swelling to a massive climax as Maria Christopher's backing vocals come into focus. Instrumental tracks, infused with Bryant Clifford Meyer's electronics, lend a cinematic quality; on "Weight," ghostly chants from Christopher and Ayal Naor assume the main focus. The climax comes in "From Sinking" and "Hym," an overwhelming one-two punch of desperation and transcendence. "Oceanic was the first record that we had written with what became the permanent lineup," Turner said in 2010. "With Oceanic people felt more comfortable with expressing their ideas and working together. That was in a lot of ways, a point of solidification for us." A cornerstone of what would be termed post-metal, Isis and Oceanic would have a tremendous impact on a new wave of bands like Pelican and Cult of Luna. S.S.