Progressive metal titans Neurosis have never been the sort of band to release a Spring record every year, however this year we have an album released just in time for the red fang of Christmas.
By far the most direct record Neurosis have released, the psychedelic weirdness that once differentiated this band has now been diluted by a legion of copyists… and perhaps wisdom. The sulphuric anger that burned out of the middle period releases (Through Silver in Blood 1996,Times of Grace 1999, A Sun That Never Sets 2001,) has been tempered, the wildness coalesced into sweeping melodies, a deeper truth exhumed.
To use a Radiohead analogy, for a band that repeatedly made one KID A-esque abstract expressionist masterpiece after the other, here they’ve taken a step back and made the introspective Ok Computer of tribal militarism; Honor Found in Decay.
The album opens with We All Rage in Gold, subtle guitars chime in against a peel of high pitched electronic howl and then builds into a chug-a-long narrative concerning blood and water. It’s simple stuff, almost forgettable, until we reach the two and half minutes mark and an ominous slow change that reminds us what it is that Neurosis do well; build monolithic atmospheres humming with enough grindcore swing that you’d be forgiven for assuming it was a mastodon trumpeting at the end of a pendulum.
This alone doesn’t make Neurosis a great band but it lays the best foundations for the upper register melodies and chilling samples that, with carnal post-Swans drumming, defines the Neurosis sound.
Fans of A Sun that Never Sets (and who isn’t) are given a classic piece of Neurosis-ness in At the Well, which contains a lot of the sturm and drang of the immortal classic From the Hill, echoing a lot of the latter’s dynamic power.
That Neurosis never exhibit any waste on their recording shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone at this time however the focus shown on Honor takes economy to a whole new level. Every note is careful chosen and played with a terse gravitas that clenches the listener throughout the album.
True to form the guitars of Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till avoid every heavy music cliché, tracing instead modal, medieval baroness and European folk figures, interlocking naive melodies which conjure dark age apocalypses as much as their post-nuclear counterpoints.
Of all the elements that make up Neurosis hardly enough attention is ever paid to Jason Roeder’s percussion work. There is something sublime about his playing that keeps a glacial groove going without ever losing the sense of pressure or movement that makes the band so special. It remains to be seen whether drumming gets any simpler than it does on Casting of the Ages but rarely are the drums played with so much feeling and expression. When responding to a fellow drummers surprise at the size of Roeder’s kit (“a single rack and single floor tom”*) given the size of his sound Roeder replied:
“What else would one need? I’ve been playing a four piece since I was 12 and I still don’t feel like I’ve mastered it.”
Roeder’s drumming on Honor presents several masterclass lessons in almost any aspect of drumming that could be imagined and hats off to Albini and Co. for recording them so well. The sense of warmth, presence, and space makes this album vital listening for anyone interested either drumming or the recording of percussion.
New endings. What will surprise many listeners is a shift in the tone of many of these recordings as the band seem to flirt with major scale conclusions to their compositions or in other terms the songs mature into a soaring, albeit hard won, optimism. Of course Neurosis tracks on previous albums reach an inevitable end but the result was more a statement of strength than actual optimism.
Honor Found in Decay could very well be the moment that their fans have been waiting for. It’s feels like a conclusion to everything the band has set out to achieve. Where each proceeding album seemed to strive on many levels; the spiritual, the physically, the emotion and the musical, this album is the final ascent, the moment where the protagonist clears the clouds and goes beyond the material.
A phenomenal piece of work and without question crucial listening for anyone who yearns for music that fancies more than the flesh.Purchase Honor Found in Decay
*Roeder’s Kit circa 2010:
Neurosis: Honor Found in Decay – Album released October 29th – Neurot recordings.
1 December – ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas Festival, Camber Sands
2 December – The Forum, London with Godflesh
SCOTT KELLY (Neurosis)
Europe Tour 2012
Sat 24.11. NO Porsgrunn Sort og Blå Scene
Sun 25.11. NO Oslo Revolver
Mon 26.11. EE Riga Artelis
Tue 27.11. FI Helsinki Kuudes Linja
Wed 28.11. FI Turku Klubi
Thu 29.11. FI Oulu Nuclear Nightclub
Tue 04.12. UK London The Black Heart
Wed 05.12. CH Luzern Sedel
Thu 06.12. CH Martigny Sunset Bar
Fri 07.12. CH Moudon Les Prisons
Sat 08.12.CH Delémont SAS
Sun 09.12. IT Parma Bandits Pub
Mon 10.12. GER Karlsruhe Jubez
Tue 11.12. GER Dortmund Pauluskirche
Wed 12.12. GER Leipzig UT Connewitz
Thu 13.12. GER Osnabrück Bastard Club
Fri 14.12. GER Berlin Jägerklause
Sat 15.12. PL Poznan Blue Note
Sun 16.12. GER Hamburg Molotow
Mon 17.12. GER Rostock Mau
Tue 18.12. DK Copenhagen Loppen
Wed 19.12. NL Groningen Simplon
Thu 20.12. NL Tilburg O13
Fri 21.12. LU Luxenbourg Decibal Bar
Sat 22.12. BE Brüssel Ancienne Belgique
London based writer and photographer whose work has graced the grimy pages of most UK music publications. Marshmallowed with age he dreams of touring the Cairngorms and writing romantic prose about semantic pathways. As it is, until that cliché he is this one.