Every type of music has its share of inaccurate stereotypes, but few styles are more plagued by misconceptions than hard rock. Those who aren't sympathetic to this subset tend to view its practitioners as stimulation-craving cretins -- the musical equivalent of tots who can't stop sticking their tongues into electrical outlets. Isis belies these cliches, however, by way of recordings that are as creative as they are heavy. On Panopticon, a new disc issued by Ipecac Records, guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner and the rest of this Boston-based quintet steer clear of immediate gratification in favor of sprawling tracks like "In Fiction," which encompass characteristics ranging from deep and delicate to brutish and bludgeoning. Only very smart performers could come up with such a conceptually challenging amalgamation, and the members of Isis appear to qualify. Consider that their latest album's liner notes quote from the likes of author Michel Foucault, who wrote in 1973's Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, "Hence the major effect of the panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power." If these hard-rockers understand this passage, they obviously aren't the dunces the music's reputation suggests.
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