Isotope – Self-Titled Review

[Cover Illustration by Adam Kindred]

There is plenty of great metal starting to seep through the cracks here in 2019, and a bunch of it is getting reviewed right here at Last Rites. But for some reason, a super steady stream of crusty punk goodness is also cropping up on a regular basis. Sure, you could blame most of that on Craig Hayes being around. Maybe it’s because Andrew, Cap and I also indulge in the crustiverse on a consistent basis. What’s most important is that we share all that hard-hitting mayhem with you loyal readers and drugged up newcomers. You don’t want to be the only idiot at the squat house that hasn’t heard the new Warbastard or Rat Cage album. Imagine the embarrassment, you fucking poser.

Anyways, all that bullshit aside, what we have here is an absolutely killer record (this word will be used a LOT when referring to this record) from Isotope, a credentialed quintet from the Bay Area. Taking their cues from the Japanese hardcore scene (which is highly underrated, by the way), Isotope are rolling with the take-no-prisoners kind of attitude. While it’s an attitude the band has long held, it’s likely never been pressed to wax in such a succinct, flattering manner.

Release date: April 5, 2019. Label: Carbonized Records.
“Pleasure Convenient” is a clever smash-up of styles. At just over two minutes the track is primarily interested in an old-school d-beat attack with plenty of “playing Guitar Hero on expert level” drum fills. But no track on Isotope is merely how it begins. Like most of the compositions across this record, subtle complexity pops up like Punxsutawney Phil trying not to see his shadow after a long night of consuming way too much sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist. As the track decays into a marching rhythm, heavy on the snare, a syncopated rhythm needles through the fracas to take center stage. Although brief, it’s a revealing look into the sheer breadth of influences that ended up being honored in a band that started out with the goal of sounding like ultimate Japanese old school band Bastard.

Rolling out with all the groove and authority of a Tragedy track, “Bloody Dove of Peace” represents a convergence of styles. The rhythm section bursts forward, coming off a roll on the toms to end the false start on the track. Guitars whine in the distance, screaming for recognition, howling to be fed. The drums are active, not content to rest on a classic d-beat pattern (like bands Isotope clearly take cues from, e.g. Totalitär, Skitsystem and Discharge)—they fly between snare rolls, tom-tom fills and thunderous bass and floor-tom combos. It’s around the three-minute mark that the track truly blazes. The flourishes dropped away, Isotope positively rumbles ahead as an intact unit intent on submission of their enemies. Together they charge as guitar solos scream and swirl over the booming, exuberant and vomitous vocals.

One thing you might notice is that Isotope demands to be played at high volume. Whether in-ear monitors, circumaural cans, speakers on your wall or just some shitty Apple AirPods, you’re going to want to crank that volume way the fuck up. Two factors contribute to this. First, the album is awesome, energetic and infectious. Your legs will betray you in furious stomps as your face tenses up into what you’d look like if someone was throwing pieces of jagged plastic at you. Your hands will become fists, banging intermittently on inanimate objects that surround you. Second, the production—slightly muted and flat with emphasis paid to the tremendous drumming—lends itself to increased volume. It’s the kind of production that you can crank up without injuring your ears or blowing out the speakers in your 1996 Toyota Camry.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that this is Isotope’s fourth release, but this LP contains a few tracks that were first debuted in the early phases of the band back on their 2014 Demo. While extremely raw, their demo showed a formidable band that was likely extremely good live (probably why they got invited to so many festivals over the past few years). Tracks that appear on both—”Dream Thief,” “Phoenix Ashes” and “Pleasure Covenant”—reveal just how talented Isotope is and how they’ve embraced that. Isotope contains more guitar flourishes, more restrained vocals, a tighter drum performance and an altogether more impressive, diverse band willing to let their imaginations fly.

The important thing is that Isotope finally got to record. And how fucking crust punk is it that their efforts to record hampered by their recording studio being flooded with raw sewage? Also, why do they always say “raw” before sewage? Is there a better way to have sewage dropped all over your equipment and into your life? Like, if only the sewage wasn’t raw. If perhaps it was cooked it would make for a better surprise.

So look, if the band can wade through sewage to make an album, you can take a few fucking minutes out of your life to spin it. You will absolutely not regret it. This is some seriously killer punk rock with all the crusty crustlets and hardcore focus that you need in your life. Plus, it’s on a super awesome record label called Carbonized that’s run by Chad Gailey of Necrot.

Posted by Manny-O-Lito

Infinitely committed to the expansion of artistic horizons. Very interested in hearing your grandparent's anecdotes & recipes. @mannyowar

  1. I love this. Never heard of Isotope until today. Brings me back to the late 80s.


  2. Raw sewage actually contains more of the original nutrients.


    1. But would you eat it?


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