All bands end eventually and if you had to pick the best way for a band to go out, you couldn’t come up with something much better than what Isis said in yesterday’s announcement. They have done what they wanted, are all still healthy and engaged, feel gratitude to those they have met and stand by what they have done. Folks may feel sad or dramatic about the impact of this – “Isis is breaking up!” – but you’ve got to hand it to those guys: they’re ending it about as well as anyone could.

Tthink for a second about the thirteen years that Isis has been around and you’ll realize a lot has changed for the better in the world of music. Over that near decade and a half, the world at large has come to a different understanding of “metal.” Through the persistent work of a bunch of people the music that falls under that ever-broadening genre description is now understood to be a vast landscape of possibilities. You say “I’m in a metal band” and lots of folks will say ”Okay, what kind of metal band?”

Even the most “I-only-love-Steel-Panther-and-there’s nothing-ironic-about-it” fan has to appreciate that this means more people listening to, making and drawing appreciation from this expanding type of music. And Isis has been one of the most vital forces for this change. They’ve created and presented heavy music that was contrary to expectations – not macho, not fantastic, smart about design and abstraction, focusing less on technique and more on structure, but never too far from a roaring power that could straight-up destroy. When they started they were often lumped into a small box with one or two other oddballs bands on some fringe. The world has come around but it’s only because Isis’s dedication has been so, so persistent and compelling.

And, I will tell you from knowing them as people, the way they have done it has been absolutely top-fucking-shelf. They’ve taken care to present music in a way that excites them as fans and artists. They’ve brought dozens of other bands along as support, both to share music they’re excited about with their fans and to encourage those bands to see the world from their (gigantic and growing) stage. They’ve stayed firmly planted in the independent community that they grew from as a band and music fans (though never being 1/10th as self-righteous about it as I believe they have every right to be). And there are thousands – THOUSANDS – of people on continents around the globe who can tell some story about “I met X from Isis after their show and he was totally cool to me.”

So as a cultural force and as a band comprised of five good people, I will easily state that they are as unfuckwithable as ANYONE currently operating. But the truly special thing about Isis is that they created and played music that was uniquely valuable. I’ve said before that the best thing about music is that it creates transcendence – a moment or set of moments where I lose sense of my physical self, my sense of time and space are gone. It is a rare and devastating thing when it happens and Isis has brought me there. A few times when I’ve been listening alone and just been overwhelmed by a song. And a few more when I have been in front of them paying live – as they were an AMAZING live band, the best I’ve seen of being able to bring it in a really big live setting – and everything just disappears, swallowed by where they have taken me.

Lots of bands will happily cop to being inspired musically by Isis. But as you raise a glass to Isis tonight, think instead of some other band that’s just getting started right now, today. Some group of a few kids deciding that they will create new music that they want to hear, take the time to give it to the world in a careful way, call their own shots of how to operate and nurture the community where they will find their footing. That band will go on to tour the world, create hours of fantastic original music and create tens of thousands of fans. And that band will look today on Isis and be inspired.


Justin Foley plays guitar and sings for the Austerity Program.  Their record Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn is out now.  Visit them online at www.austerityprogram.com.  All messages about urban bike riding, vegetarian BBQ and monetary policy will be answered first.

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