When I heard the Isaac Vacuum debut EP I knew that the next thing they did would be interesting.
I liked it a lot.
Whereas the EP was at once dissonant, melodic, metallic, quirky and progressive, I found this album worth of completely new songs less idiosyncratic and more cohesive, as if they had decided to take the elements that had been less “difficult” and run with the rest. If the EP was the experimental prototype, Lords is the full production version, but that is by no means a criticism of the EP nor this album. What they have brought to the LP is the intrinsically tense and identifiable sound that grabbed my attention on the first release.
I can’t get away from the fact that there are elements of this album that remind me of Stone Temple Pilots. Having said this, something much denser than stone, heavier than temples, underpins this music. I like music to be metallic and powerful. I’m drawn to bands whose music makes you instinctively reach for the volume knob and turn it clockwise. This album induces sensations from reciprocating vibrations in my bones and organs. There are harmonies and powerful lead vocals.
Lyrically I got a sense that the songs have a common theme, of becoming lost in a World where we have increasingly less control. In the third track, Karōshi, there is a simple observation that focuses on an equally sinister trend with which, I think, many of us can identify. The lyric only appears to say less than the title, which translates from Japanese literally as “overwork death”. Dan Mueller simply repeats the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, yet this is delivered with a gradual increase in intensity and deliberation that seems ultimately to capture a sense of pure desperation.
Lyrics that seem to convey a fatalistic view of the World can serve us well, for anyone should conclude that they might not actually be alone in their realisation that life can be a bit, well, tricky. That’s why, paradoxically, such words can be uplifting. Stefan Huth says of the lyrics: “Despite not being political the lyrics address the collapse of patterns, fear of changes or abuse of power…Lords uses numerous allegories from all over the world and emphasizes the theme of intercultural co-existence in a globalized world”.
Yeah, and they do them riffs that make me do that head-bob thing.
I can only pump my clenched fists, and with a tight top lip and lined up teeth omit an inadequate “get you some of that”, in an effort to release some relevant utterance of approval.
Don’t think that Isaac Vacuum are just all metal and assertive noise because they also know how to dial it back. Neither have they completely abandoned their experimental inclinations. With the fifth track, Off, they all but abandon the song format and explore a different space, using existentialist dialogue, over a backdrop of effects-driven sounds and jazzy drums. Elsewhere on the album there is still more evidence that Isaac Vacuum are more than just a loud and heavy noise.
Within the spectrum of their heavy there are many subtleties to discover. They don’t thrash through songs, they don’t play complex solos. They are an incredibly tight musical unit, in places acting as one cohesive entity, the bass from the Touch Guitar, the guitars and the drums acting together without the sound being muddied in any way. My gut feeling tells me that they can do this live – that and their live video of the last track, Pagoda – and that at some point I will need to see them.
There is not one bad track on this album and I’m adding it to a growing list of releases that have been a joy for me to listen to and comment on.
01. Lords (4:14)
02. Golem (4:04)
03. Karōshi (7:46)
04. Double Helix (8:20)
05. Off (1:49)
06. Cameo (7:38)
07. Void (7:23)
08. Collapse (7:28)
09. Error (7:04)
10. Post Scriptum (1:35)
11. Pagoda (9:24)
Total Time: 66:46
Dan Mueller – Vocals & Guitars
Philipp Maike – Guitars, Vocals & Bass
Stefan Huth – Touch Guitars, Moog & Vocals
Michel Schallenberg – Drums
Record Label: n/a
Country of Origin: Germany
Date of Release: 18th March 2017