Album Review – Dystopia by Isole (Hammerheart Records)

Swedish epic doom metallers, Isole, return with a brand new album called Dystopia, released on the 17th of August 2019 via Hammerheart Records.

Dystopia is Isole’s first release since 2014’s The Calm-Hunter. Isole, originally formed under the name Forlorn, way back in 1990 before changing to Isole in 2003. They have released 6 full lengths albums alongside a demo and an EP before Dystopia, their 7th album. Isole are a 4 piece with Daniel Brynste and Crister Olsson on guitars, Jimmy Mattsson on bass and Victor Parri on drums. Mattsson provides harsh vocals while Brynste and Olsson provide cleans.

Isole are a doom band but of the cleaner variety, more of a Khemmis really. Lots of clever harmonies and cleanly sung passages blend with big riffs and dreamy solos. Grand soundscapes are created with multiple layers and clever song structures with minimal fuzz or sludge. Dystopia has 7 tracks on it and is around 48 minutes long. Typical of this style really, expect longish songs with plenty of time given to create atmosphere.

Dystopia
Photo by Erik Larsson Photography

Beyond the Horizon starts the album off brilliantly jumping straight into a full sounding riff with mid tempo drumming and a screaming solo. The vocals come in cleanly with a grandiose feel to them. As the song plays out we get clever little riffs and solos intertwined with a thick bass layer and drums that switch in tempo regularly. There’s a load of backing vocals adding even more depth and you get a nice little switch up near then end as the guitars pick up a load of crunch and the drums speed up for a nice head banging section.

A lot of the album goes the same way as the opener. Clever riffs, wavy solos and big booming drums all weaved in together to create a huge, epic sound. That’s not to say it is the same or predictable. It’s not. While each song sits firmly in the genre, they all have unique points that keep them fresh and exciting. Written in the Sand really slows things down with a thick, bass heavy chug before a higher lead offers a ray of sunshine through the murky clouds.

The Beholder has a gentle acoustic start that is a little old school sounding before a Big Crunch of guitars wakes you from your chilled out state. It has a few sped up sections to get your head going and a fiery and fast solo.

Harsh vocals are very underused but when they do come out, they really have an impact. You Went Away uses them and is the best song on the album so far. It has a blackened feel to it with huge chiming bells in the background mixed in with a thick and slow riff with a high pitched guitar over the top. It’s an amazing intro. The vocals on the song are perfect, starting clean but with growled passages as the song progresses. There are some powerfully heavy riffs and drum sections too as well as a cracking solo. Cracking song.

Forged By Fire is a little less expansive as a track but still hits hard with a really punchy riff and thick overall sound. Galenskapens Land makes good use of the slow, acoustic moments to lull you in followed by a forceful, bass riff to wake you back up. It’s effective.

The album closes on the song, Nothingness. A gentle start with a morose feeling plays out acoustically with soft vocals. This transitions, quite suddenly into a crushing riff and thunderous drum blast before settling into a nice chugging passage. We get more harsh vocals on this song working nicely alongside echoing cleans and a really thick, grimy riff. It’s a really strong track to end an album of immense quality.

There is a lot to admire across Dystopia. It’s a hugely accomplished album showcasing immense vocal talent and exceptional musicianship. The songs are crafted really well and the 48 minutes seems to fly by. It really is very clever stuff. I personally found the songs that used the harsh vocals to be more my cup of tea. Especially You Went Away, which is an absolutely phenomenal song. As a person who actively avoids too much doom, this album will be getting a lot of replays. Fantastic album.

Grab yourself a copy now from Bandcamp by following the link or from Hammerheart at this link. Dystopia is also available on all the usual streaming platforms now.

Links

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Dystopia by Isole (Hammerheart Records)
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