On paper, the nearly two hours of rarities and previously unreleased material on Temporal looks more like an attic-clearing exercise – the proverbial nail in the coffin of Isis’s 13-year career – than a must-listen. After all, an entire disc is devoted to demos, and the other one’s split between remixes, cover songs and collect-’em-all cuts like the ISIS side of a split EP with the Melvins and a tense acoustic rendition of “20 Minutes/40 Years.”
If only things were that simple. While the Boston-born band was often considered a less-complicated second coming of Neurosis, Temporal paints a different picture, hinting at the five very different voices that were vying for attention at every turn. Cover wise, “Streetcleaner” and “Hand of Doom” take us back to the group’s early days, when they saw nothing wrong with grinding through the industrial wastelands of Godflesh one minute and following the doom-y directives of Black Sabbath the next. Meanwhile, the Melvins/Lustmord remix of “Not In Rivers, But In Drops” and Thomas Dimuzio’s widescreen take on “Holy Tears” show what kind of creative wells Isis tapped in other acts.
And then there’re those demos. “Wills Dissolve” plows through a Panopticon track like a vinegary garage band; “Carry” and “False Light” move from mood-altering atmospherics to pure anguish, channeling everything from masochistic black-metal to bleak ambient music; and the 16 knot-tightening minutes of “Grey Divide” unfold in movements, a hint of what could have been. Or what’s yet to come.