Brazil’s Isaurian may have started as a way for a few members of Optical Faze to bide their time while their main project was on hiatus, but it has very rapidly grown to be so much more than that. They’ve only been around since 2017, but they’ve already gotten to work with legends like Rhys Fulber and Justin Broadrick before they even have a debut album. Until now, that is. Chains of Blue is the band’s opening statement, and it sees them reach for new heights while attempting to nail down definitively what they want their sound to be.
Isaurian is spearheaded by Jorge Rabelo, Optical Faze’s guitarist, and he is joined by two other ex-members of the currently inactive project, bassist Vicente Jr. and keyboardist Pedro Gabriel. For Chains of Blue, Isaurian incorporated two new members who have not played on their initial EPs, second vocalist Hoanna Aragão and drummer Roberto Tavares, with original drummer Guilherme Tanner moving to second guitar. It’s a really smart move for the band, as the main difference between Chains of Blue and their previous releases is the expansion and deepening of their shoegaze-meets-doom sound. There are a lot more layers here and a lot more to unpack, which one would expect when one doubles the amount of vocals and guitars, but the way that Isaurian puts everything together is really smart and a testament to their good songwriting sensibilities.
Chains of Blue feels much more like a shoegaze album slowed down to a doom pace than a doom album with post-rock tendencies. It’s not a massive wall of sound meant to crush you; most of the guitars are delicate and somber, the vocals clean and melodic, the harmonies light and almost poppy in flavor over the slow-paced and methodical rhythm section. I think the part that most stands out to me is how well the keyboards play into everything without overdoing it. Chimes of piano and vibrant synth add more pop feeling and lighten up what could end up being a dense sound. They’re one of the facets that I looked at closer upon multiple listens, of which Chains of Blue is well-deserving.
I also think that Aragão’s presence here can’t be overstated. What she brings to the table is a powerful voice that compliments but doesn’t compete with Rabelo’s, who takes most of the lead vocals. Her contributions particularly shine on opener “Vanity Mirror,” the title track and “Reaching Hands,” the latter two seeing her take center stage and showcase just how far she can push her almost operatic voice. Of particular note is “Reaching Hands,” where Aragão stretches the melody to the breaking point before the chorus kicks in with the album’s sole moment of unadulterated doominess and harsh vocals. Rabelo’s vocals are also similarly low and slow, with his croon flowing like molasses over tracks like “Pythoness” and “Constant Glow.”
For my money, it doesn’t get better than recent single “With Solace.” Start to finish, it’s an exercise in patience and letting things build when they need to, with Aragão and Rabelo’s vocals in constant harmony and the rhythm changing and growing heavier under a steady delicate guitar lead and just the right amount of piano. When things reach their peak, it’s almost transcendental. Everything about how this album is put together shows a level of sophistication that you wouldn’t expect from a band releasing its debut album, except that it’s nobody’s first time around the block here.
Often times, one of the things lacking from post- or -gaze brand metal (or metal in general these days) is an amount of subtlety. Especially with shoegaze elements, it’s always a switch between zero and eleven, without any amount of breath or build. Isaurian avoid this pitfall by staying close to their shoegaze roots and letting the songs speak for themselves. It’s not about playing the loudest or drowning every sense with vacuum cleaner noises. It’s about crafting a mood, and Chains of Blue shines brightly without being overwhelming, thanks in no small part to their ability to just craft a damn good song.