In 2005, post-metal had reached its tipping point. Most of Isis had moved to Los Angeles and become buddies with Tool, Pelican were the biggest act on Hydra Head and bands like Mouth of the Architect, Minsk and Cult of Luna were copping the build-build-collapse-and-crush thing and taking it in new and unexplored directions, releasing their respective breakthroughs. A feeding frenzy for “the genre that those who play it refuse to call it” had begun, with Translation Loss and other indies bumping up against the big dogs. Over in England, Earache had already signed Cult of Luna, dropping the Swedes’ acclaimed Salvation in 2004. Earlier that year, CoL’s Finnish neighbors Callisto were polishing their full-length debut with producer and Nasum mastermind Mieszko Talarczyk nine months before his tragic death in the tsunami disaster.
At a glance, True Nature Unfolds has all the trappings of a mid-2000s “thinking man’s metal” album: the 2004 original release sports an Aaron Turner-ish collage while a shimmery sunscape adorns the ’05 Earache reissue; centerpiece “Storm” – with its female cooing and climactic circular riff – is a dead ringer for Oceanic classic “Carry”; hell, even the band’s name reflects the celestial fascination of the period. But look beyond the traits that betray it as an album of its time and place and True Nature Unfolds reveals itself to be ahead of the pack. Cult of Luna’s Somewhere Along the Highway, long considered both the zenith and death knell for post-metal by the subgenre’s devotes, received accolades aplenty for its seamless banjo plucking and dusty folk atmospherics between the 10-minute riff excursions. That was in 2006, almost two years after the stirring saxophone that paints “Cold Stare”’s mid-section like a setting sun or the faux-string section that burrows its way underneath the backbeat-driven death march of closer “The Great Divorce.” Some bands’ debuts add unexpected, but not audacious, elements; choices that make you think, “Just who the hell do these guys think they are?” Callisto were thinking big picture early on in their career.
It wasn’t Pelican’s participation in Taste of Chaos 2006 or Isis’ dissolution that drove post-metal to extinction; rather, bands simply moved on en masse, evolving and adapting or slipping by the wayside. In that sense, True Nature Unfolds is the proverbial mosquito trapped in amber, a petrified time capsule from which DNA of a bygone era can be extracted. Though they would lose the metal script almost entirely in the coming years – 2006’s Noir embraced the band’s subtle jazz elements, while 2009’s Providence featured new crooner Jani Ala-Hukkala and is basically a Porcupine Tree record – Callisto anchored their forward-thinking debut with enough riffs to firmly entrench it as a product of its time and place. “Limb: Diasporas” dives headlong into mid-period Neurosis repetition, elevated even more by the sparse tribal toms that carry its ebbing meter, while “Worlds Collide” sees guitarists Markus Myllykangas and Johannes Nygård djent-ly flaunting their Meshuggah influence a good few years before a few dozen bands began cloning the mathy Swedes. Sure, a few of the expeditions could use some trimming or variation; “Caverns of Khafka” pile-drives its hook until it’s a few miles past the Challenger Deep. And Myllykangas’ howling is pretty one-note throughout, with nothing but the occasional wispy female backing vocal to break the monotony. But even three years into their career, Callisto were forcing their chosen field out of its comfort zone with not much more than a nudge. Post-metal is dead. Long live post-metal.