14 December 2007

The Neurosis Album Hierarchy


Talk on a message board recently turned to Neurosis, and what their best albums are. I got involved and that, combined with having not written anything for ages, results in the following. Listed in ascending order:

The Eye of Every Storm (2004)
Pain of Mind (1987)
The Word as Law (1990)


TEoES was just bland. Bland stuff with the only really good song being 'Bridges'. Pain of Mind is cool for the completist, but a tad pointless when it sounds so similar to the better recorded The Word as Law.

Given to the Rising (2007)

A total return to form after their 2004 fudge, the riffs were solid as fuck, there were some grand songs... but it all seemed a bit going through the motions. Ever since 1999, they had been getting more melodic, slightly more adventurous with each release. This was good stuff, but very safe territory for them. Quiet-loud, recorded by Albini, we get it.

Times of Grace (1999)
Souls at Zero (1992)


Times was shockingly disappointing for me at the time, because I was expecting it to be further out into the unknown, when they actually did the opposite. I blame Scott Kelly, and his banging on about 20-minute songs before release. That, and the release with Grace made it seem like I was getting half an album. The dust settled and it turned out it was really fucking good. 'The Doorway' and 'Under the Surface', especially, are fantastic. Souls was kind of a different and similar story, being the first Neurosis album I went to after TSIB. It was like being a musical archeologist, seeing where their key sounds were founded, and what they had sounded like back in the day. Massive Joy Division influence, but they were really starting to spread their wings. There is a segment on the wonderful 'Stripped' which is a career high, with its combination of rock solid riff, bombastic fanfare and chimes of punctuation. Proper precursor stuff.

A Sun That Never Sets (2001)
Enemy of the Sun (1993)


More v different-similar juxtaposition. Sonically these two couldn't be more separated. ASTNS is the apex of the Albini era for me, as they finally get confortable with being melodic, but before they fell off the precipice into Anathema-AOR. They bring the riffs, but also the inventiveness like on the vocal patterns of 'Fallling Unknown' and the dramatic ending of the album. Enemy, meanwhile, is the darkest Neurosis album, and probably the hardest to get into. It's essentially three movements between Epic Neurosis, fuzznoise freakout and pre-sunnO))) terror atmospherics. Each album also has a total standout classic: 'Crawl Back In' which sees them out-Mogwai Mogwai in the tenderness stakes before building back up to massive catharsis, and the momentous 'Lost', which is TSIB-level in its semi-industrial dynamic meltdown. Awesome false finish too


Through Silver in Blood (1996)

And this is when it all came together. Not just a collection of their best riffs, nor just the best mix of ambience and rage (the quiet parts worked so well on their own that the album was co-released by Release Records, Relapse's short lived ambient arm), nor merely their most inventive. What set this album apart was the combination of all these factors with the sheer sense of malice that drips from the records grooves. Steve Von Till at the time referred to it as 'user unfriendly', and that's what it is. For every time they play an earth shattering riff for four bars, they trance out with five minutes of repeating chords. The riffs are pure evil, as are the quiet bits: rarely in metal were quiet passages anything more than punctuation but in this case they were as integral to the carnage as the louder parts. Then there were all the little touches. The times Dave Edwardson's FX-laden vocals boomed emphasis onto the lyrics, the bassline nod to Cape Fear in 'Aeon', the drone & bagpipe duet that shouldn't have worked; the ten minute death rattle that is 'Enclosure in Flame'. It's just too boss for words.

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