Album Review: Callisto – “Noir” (2007)

I shouldn’t hide the following facts: I’m a fan of Isis, Neurosis, and Swans.

For those of you who maybe haven’t run into Callisto yet, they’re nowhere near as aggressive as Swans, a bit faster than Neurosis, and not quite as heavy as Isis. This being said, there are elements of each at play here and it makes for a wonderful metal goulash, if you’re into that sorta thing.

This album marks the first successful time I’ve run into the use of the saxophone in a progressive drone metal type setting. They make use of it three and one half minutes into the first track “Wormwood” and it’s quite wonderful. They were daring enough to try it and smart enough to keep it minimal. Well done.

I can call the album no more progressive than, say, “Panopticon” by Isis, but it’s no less progressive either. True to form, each song it set to build on texture and volume and Callisto is good at what they do. In fact, their use of contrast between ‘loud’ and ‘quiet’ is worth wading through the album to experience on it’s own.

The album uses vocals sparingly indicating respect for the use of space. Vocals, all too often, make gorgeous slowly paced songs seem rushed and sloppy (I’m looking at you long since defunct ‘drone jazz rock’ band Karate.)

The star track of the album for me was “A Close Encounter.”

It’s use of major cords illicit a ‘happy metal’ like feeling that greatly contrasts in a good way with the heaviness of portions of the song. Also, I’m pretty sure a clarinet is put to use at about the 3:30 mark, just as a harmonic drum part kicks in.

Summary: I’m not sure how Callisto got by me for so long. “Noir” is well worth the time. Some folks might not be into an hour of music in only eight songs of this pace, but those people aren’t me.

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