It is currently summer here in the Eastern United States which means one thing and one thing only: humidity. So it’s only fitting that this humble reviewer brings you a review of a slow, heavy, and sludgy shoegaze-inspired album that perfectly encapsulates how the weather is currently making me feel.

As someone who is a huge fan of the marriage of introverted alternative rock and metal, I was surprised that PIA ISA never came across my radar until recently. That being said, this album serves up a gracious serving of dread, hauntingly ethereal vocals, and enough chuggy riffs that will have you insatiably craving relistens.


Active since 2022, PIA ISA is a solo doom project by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Pia Isaksen, supported by additional guitarist Gary Arce and drummer Ole Teigen, with influences from shoegaze, sludge, and psychedelic stoner metal. Started in Norway, PIA ISA delivers the classic misanthropic Scandinavian sound that has come to be associated with the cold, with a unique twist. PIA ISA‘s first album Distorted Chants (2022) is marked by a dark and distraught sound that makes itself present on the sophomore release as well.

With three releases out (2 full-length albums and one EP), PIA ISA crafts a seasoned sound while being a relatively young project. Whenever one purchases the new album, they can be assured that they are not only listening to a unique sound, but are about to embark on a journey of sonic landscapes painted by the artists in such a foreboding way.


Dissolve kicks right off with Transform, a sludgy yet beautiful track that almost feels like Kafka’s metamorphosis from a musical viewpoint. Throughout the four and a half minutes, the listener is taken on a slow and messy journey that made me feel like I was listening to the musical equivalent of a David Cronenberg movie. Into The Fire and title track Dissolve carry on the slow and foreboding tone with no forgiveness. The layers upon layers of sludge weigh your headphones down as if you feel heavier and heavier as the tracks progress. My standout track from the album is One Above Ten Below, which harkens back to a early 70s occult rock sound, without giving up that signature sludgy DNA.

It’s important to note Isaksen’s vocals. They offer an amazing antithesis to the musicality of what the physical instruments are doing. The guitar, bass, and drums offer a steady and droning grove while her vocals put the listener into a trance. This perfect tandem that the vocals and instrumentation pull off is stunning and deserves such a high appreciation from the listener.

The back half of the album is such a wall of sound that it completely envelops the listener with nowhere to go. The final track Drown Or Float is a perfect example of this, with exquisite naming as well. The whole album felt like it builds up to this moment of no escape, which leaves the listener craving more.


PIA ISA has made a fan of me with my first listen. By the next two listening cycles, I was obsessed. The music evokes a particular feel that might not be for everyone, but if you are a fan of slow and sticky metal, this one’s for you. Dissolve is out on Argonauta Records on June 28th. Give it a listen and stay heavy!

Matthew McCune