Album Review: Scottish stoner rock band, Isak, set to release new full length, The Great Expanse

The Great Expanse will be released in late February

Isak is a stoner rock trio from Glasgow, Scotland. The group is made up of Joe McGarrity on vocals and guitar, Mark Tait on bass, and Robert “Twigs” McLean drums. The band has been producing riffy space rock since 2012 and just announced their first full length album, The Great Expanse, via their Facebook page.

The Great Expanse will be a followup up to Isak EP, released in July, 2013, and EP2, which was released in January, 2018. The Great Expanse is a sonically compelling stoner rock album that will take you to the edge of space and beyond. The album tells the story of traveler journeying across the galaxy. As he embarks across the endless cosmos, he begins to wonder if he is alone or if he is being guided. More than half instrumental, but employing the sparse, melodic vocals in a focused and effective way, the album is the soundtrack to the traveler’s story. It unfolds dynamically over the course of 45 minutes and seven tracks. The record was recorded at 16 Ohm Studio in Glasgow, with Tommy Duffin of Cosmic Dead and John McBain of Monster Magnet completing the mastering.

  1. The Great Expanse 6:46
  2. Beyond the Karman Line 6:24
  3. Falling Satellite 11:39
  4. Interstellar 3:05
  5. Ablaze 6:40
  6. Out of Reach 5:50
  7. Call of the Void 4:00

The album opens with The Great Expanse, a riffy track with a driving bass and rhythm section. With thoughtful, melodic lyrics such as “set sail on infinite seas” and “explore the great beyond,” space exploration quickly becomes the theme of the album. The lyrics disappear after the first half (they return on the fifth track), and the band members let the instruments continue the story. A spacey jam finishes things out and it fades seamlessly into the second song.

The Karman Line is the altitude where Earth ends and space begins, 62 miles above the surface. The second track, Beyond the Karman Line, begins low key with a catchy clean guitar line, but then the song builds and accelerates the heaviness, as if it were the second stage of a rocket flinging us into the vastness of space. The track has a creative drum pattern and bass rhythm, topped off by a fuzzy, psychedelic guitar tone.

Falling Satellite is the longest song on the album, close to 12 minutes. It starts with thick bass tones and cymbal swells. The guitar materializes from spacey, atmospheric sounds into a cohesive pattern, and the other instruments develop with it, creating a cosmic jam that plays out over the first half of the song. The second half transforms into a heavier, driving riff with a progressive poly-rhythm that has echoes of Tool. The track continues to form and explore for the last half, featuring a singing guitar lead and progressively building and building before fading out, with the cymbals swells and thick bass tones from the beginning making a return.

Isak formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 2012

Opening with ethereal organ tones and cosmic guitar notes, Interstellar builds into a short but nice bass-heavy progression. The hypnotic pattern continues for a few minutes before fading into the next track, Ablaze, which takes us into more of a crunchier, riffier territory. This track is where the lyrics return, making their presence at the beginning and end of the track. Meanwhile, the band provides plenty of cool stoner rock change-ups, complex rhythm patterns, and plenty of cool, wandering guitar leads that weave in and out of the musical fabric.

Out of Reach starts right in with a swingy, heavy riff. The drums produce a decent shuffle pattern and some huge sounding cymbal crashes alongside a growly bass. While the opening track’s lyrics felt broad and hopeful, optimistically talking of exploring the “infinite seas” of space, the lyrics in Out of Reach come across as more desperate, searching, and claustrophobic, as if the traveler is searching for meaning, or anything, in the empty reaches of space.

At the beginning of the last track, Call of the Void, the band changes it up with harmonic, angelic vocals over a clean guitar line. It’s unsure if the harmonic lyrics represents the voice of a heavenly guide leading our traveler to some kind of salvation, or perhaps the last hallucination of a dying astronaut drifting endless into cold space, but somehow both scenarios seem hopeful, and a fitting end to an awesome stoner rock odyssey.

The album is set for release in late February, and will be available on Bandcamp, alongside their two previous EPs. Make sure to also check out the band on Facebook and Twitter. Check out The Sonic Sofa on StitcherSoundcloudthesonicsofa.blog, and Twitter. Please support the bands by buying their music and merch. If you have music, a band, or an original music review or press release that you think should be featured on the blog or podcast, contact The Purlenaut at thesonicsofashow@gmail.com. If you enjoy the content provided on this blog and want to see more, please consider donating to The Sonic Sofa on PayPal or Patreon. Go in peace and rock on, Sofanauts.

Show Dates

Feb 29 Red Crust Winter Warmer – Glasgow, UK

May 10 Red Crust Festival – Edinburgh, UK

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