Turner affirms this connection. "We've tried to stay away from overtly political subjects, but at the same time, as i said, make work that encourages people to think on a different level than is normally required of them, at least in rock music. Maybe we have introduced an idea -- and bring a different level of consciousness and a different perspective into a realm where that stuff is not considered."
Meyer confirms the influence of political environment on the band's writing. "With the previous records, it was hard to ignore what was going on. It was hard not to make a tangent between any kind of story that might seem slightly political to what was going on. And I think that's important. I think that's something that comes out of the music and in the ideas in the lyrics, and it's something that people should think about whether we present it as a political thing or not."
"Whatever i'm ingesting at the time i'm working on a record has a tendency to rub off," says Turner. "Like Cliff was saying, even though we've been careful not to have an overtly political stance, at the time we were making particular records, there was shit that was hard to ignore, with Panopticon especially. That was the apex of the shenanigans as perpetuated by the Bush Administration and the height of American paranoia about an Islamic threat. So that stuff had to come into play one way or another, however disguised in the final product."
Isis. Photo by Faith Coloccia.
This discussions segues to questions about a more overt -- but no less unusual -- theme throughout the history of Isis: the role of the feminine. Female vocalists lent emotional counterballast to Turner's bellow on Oceanic, their acknowledged masterpiece. A female protagonist makes frequent appearances in the lyrics and imagery of several albums. The band's name itself belongs to an Egyptian goddess whose cult was widespread throughout antiquity, drawing devotees with a maternal promise of life after death. Though he declines to speak for the rest of the band, Turner has much to say about his personal stake in balancing the scales of gender within heavy metal.
"I think in the beginning [Isis] might've been a little more testosterone-driven, more aggressive, and mostly male-oriented, but as time has gone on we have integrated a lot of more elements that do have a softer, more feminine aspect to them. I think having injected those sensibilities into the music is really important. It's a wider emotional spectrum that's being covered. There's an appeal beyond young, angry white guys. There is something to be said for that.
"A lot of things that have become recurrent elements of lyrics, and just in the music itself, have a very elemental aspect to them. A lot of it has a feminine connotation, too, so I think there are some intuitive gestures on our part that really weren't conscious, and there are other things I thought about consciously in that regard.
"I grew up in a household where I had a mother and three sisters, so I was very exposed to feminine energy. My mom taught me from a very early age about feminism, womens' rights, and gender equality, stuff like that. So I think I've been sensitive to that. I think part of the problems we have on a cultural level [is] ignoring those aspects of ourselves that might be related more to the opposite gender -- men ignoring the feminine side of themselves, women ignoring the more masculine elements of their persona."
When asked about the significance of naming the band, Turner gives an answer that fits in perfectly with the trajectory of a band that has grown their artistic vision at equal pace with their popularity over ten-odd years.
"The choice of the name Isis at the beginning was purely an aesthetic thing; it didn't really have much to do with the mythology behind it. But considering our evolution and the themes that we've addressed, it's become increasingly important over time." END