on December 6, 2012
HONOR FOUND IN DECAY is another great Neurosis album. It breaks no new ground, but rather consolidates the sound of their "Albini period" which started with TIMES OF GRACE (1999). The theme of the record, hinted at in the superb Josh Graham artwork, is social collapse and a return to a simpler way of life, closer to the Elements. "Civilization" is destroying the Earth -- that is a central dark truth that runs through all of Neurosis's music.
The seven tracks are:
We All Rage In Gold
At the Well
My Heart For Deliverance
Bleeding the Pigs
Casting of the Ages
All Is Found ... In Time
Raise the Dawn
After swerving from the path of all-out intensity to the inward-looking, ambient sounds of A SUN THAT NEVER SETS (2001) and THE EYE OF EVERY STORM (2004), the band returned to the "hypnotic, super-heavy loud music" they are known for on GIVEN TO THE RISING (2007). That record took TIMES OF GRACE (1999) and added a touch of the ambient atmospherics of TEOES. GTTR stands as my favorite Neurosis album. HONOR FOUND IN DECAY doesn't hit as hard as GTTR, nor is it as moody and ambient as TEOES. It's less extreme, but fashions strong new "songs" out of the same raw sonic materials.
*** *** ***
Neurosis began as a hardcore punk band in Oakland in 1985. They shared the speed, intensity, and anarchist politics of that movement -- against war, racism, Reagan and Thatcher. SOULS AT ZERO (1992) was the turning point when they slowed the music down and began to develop their innovative, massive, metal sound. (They're usually mentioned as a key influence on "post-metal," but their trajectory was actually from punk to metal, so post-punk.) Building this new sound further on ENEMY OF THE SUN (1993), most fans seem to agree that they produced their Nineties masterpiece with THROUGH SILVER IN BLOOD (1996), which is a maximum sonic assault with sound samples (very Eighties), psychedelic flourishes, and quieter passages mixed with the titanic guitar chords and tribal drumming.
The band's more recent music seems to have a smaller audience. On TOG they stripped down the sound with the help of producer Steve Albini, creating a more austere sound that to my ears sounds more powerful. Albini has produced all the band's albums since then.
*** *** ***
The lyrics of Neurosis are poetic and oblique, and evade any simplistic, literal interpretation. So here is my interpretation of what the band is about, based on lyrics, interviews, history, and my own listening and experience. All metal is about death and pain. This is part of its appeal, in addition to the sheer energy and intensity. But whereas metal by definition deals with the fact of death, which we must all confront, it seems to me that Neurosis has extended their early Eighties punk politics to a more sweeping indictment of industrial capitalist "civilization." The lyrics hint at a neopagan vision of life in intimate connection with the Earth, with the seasons, with all Life. This is not adolescent rebellion, and it is not nihilism. Neurosis confronts the death of our way of life, both now, in its alienation, its separation, from the Earth, but impending ecological collapse as the ecosystem is methodically destroyed. Was the Nineties a time to celebrate the victory of capitalism? No, it means alienation and ecological devastation have been in hyperdrive.
Hendrix said "I Don't Live Today," -- "existing -- nothing but existing." This alienation fuels much punk and metal. But I believe as the members of Neurosis have grown older they still feel that, feel it more deeply, rather than moving on from it and seeing it only as an adolescent phase -- they refuse to "become comfortably numb." Steve Von Till, the source of the quote in my review title as well as the "hypnotic, super-heavy, loud music" quote, has said the band attempts to go "somewhere deeper, somewhere more emotional, somewhere elemental."
"When you learn to surrender to something bigger than yourself, you're acknowledging the realm of spirit -- and where else does music come from? I have no idea, but it feels like it's not just deep in the core of us, but deep within the core of the Earth, the stars, and everything else."
I see this music as an expression of a deep connection with the ground of being, with life, with the elemental. There is a dark side to this, yes. What Jung called "the shadow" is respected and recognized. Darkness is part of the cycle of light and darkness and to fail to absorb this is to fail to be fully alive. Moving through darkness, moving through pain, moving through ritual, and emerging stronger is an ancient core human experience.
There is something Wagnerian in Neurosis, something tragic and grandiose, but their music does not involve stories about characters. There are no masks. The bellowing vocals are the first person "I," the I of every one of us. What the music expresses in all its raging intensity is something inside us that is wounded, something that connects us to all Life.
*** *** ***
From the neopagan Earth-based perspective death is part of life. Fall and Winter follow Spring and Summer in the cycle of the seasons. Decay therefore is a necessary part of the Whole. The personal path of wisdom and growth includes cycles of decay, death, rebirth and new growth. Ultimately we die and our bodies decay, giving rise to new life. Entire societies and civilizations decay and die, and I sincerely hope that as ours follows this path it does not bring the entire ecosystem down with it.
The music of Neurosis is dark and beautiful. It can help us understand the necessity of social decline. The Earth depends on it. There is honor in the recognition that the prevailing vision of never-ending growth is impossible and should be undesirable. Honor in being part of the process of decay that ends a cycle and makes possible the new life of the future.
on November 20, 2012
First I'd like to say that I'm a big fan of Neurosis, but I haven't always been and don't fully enjoy all of their work (mostly the really early stuff). I've seen them live twice and I didn't have any knowledge of the band before seeing them. They were opening for other bands. The last time they came thru my town was when they released 'Through Silver In Blood' back around 1996. I didn't know the music but was absolutely blown away by their stage performance. They're the type of band that can make you feel stoned when your sober. Their music is deep and hypnotic. The general formula for their albums is that they flow from song to song. Light flowing instrumentals and effects flow into crushing guitar solos while the vocals are raw and dark, yet full of atmospheric and image conjuring words and poetry. They seem to make an album as one whole piece - not broken down for radio consumption - and I respect that as it is the more artistic thing to do. Their songs flow from almost overwhelmingly heavy apocalyptic doom filled rage and despair to light airy instrumentals that break up the songs into individual pieces of work.
Now, if your familiar with this band and you've enjoyed the direction they're going then don't hesitate another minute and buy it! It's easily as good or better than past releases in my opinion. They aren't straying far from their recent formula which is good in my opinion yet it is totally different and unique. Nothing on this release feels like it's been done before.
If you aren't familiar with this band, this is my own quick and dirty interpretation but this is how I've come to view the music. They seemed to start out with some very heavy punk roots. I didn't particularly enjoy their first cd's. I didn't really get into this band until 'Through Silver In Blood' and if your looking to get to know their music I would suggest starting with their latest releases and working backwards through their catalog. The newest music is easiest to digest and the farther you look back the harder and grittier the music becomes - much less polished.
This is a band that has evolved into something that is just amazing to me and why the rest of the world either can't see it or can't handle it is beyond me. When I hear their music, I get images of Leonard Baskin's art, of Native American religion and folklore, of images of our own demise and doom individually and as a whole, I get images of doom, death, birth, light and dark, the elements. I could go on and on. It's dark and it's a beautiful thing to experience.
If you enjoy deep moving music, check these guys out. And do them justice by listening on a quality system with no distractions or use headphones. You'll be rewarded. Their music will unfold to you as you hear it again and again growing on you revealing more with each repetition.
on September 26, 2013
In 2007, Neurosis took the metal world by storm by blasting back onto the scene with a long-overdue (and great through and through) return to form in said year's "Given To The Rising." Now, flash forward five almost excruciatingly long years, and fans are finally treated to another Neurosis gem. 2012's "Honor Found In Decay" boasts all of the usual attributes that make a progressive metal album great, including intricate arrangements and multi-faceted songs that are likely to get better and reveal themselves more and more with repeat listens. Some listeners might be turned off with how heavy "Honor..." is, as it is easily one of the most brutal works of this band's career. But one thing is for certain: If they were set out to make an album that both challenges themselves and the listener (and does so equally as much), then they were certainly very successful.
"We All Rage In Gold" kicks the album off with a super-ambient string intro followed by a punishing, powerful and propulsive brick wall of heaviness. Some mammoth, crushing sludge metal riffage and jarring power chords course throughout most of the remainder of this song, and there is a noteworthy, throbbing bass line at its center, too. Next we have "At The Well," a track that boasts such lyrics as "rage will blossom," which are very fitting for this tune in that it develops (or, ahem, blossoms) from a quiet, minimalistic noise to heavy territory, climaxing with towering, doom-laden riffs and dramatically marching, crashing drums. Some snarly, growled vocals are included here, as well.
"My Heart For Deliverance" is a whopper of an epic song, and one that is mostly instrumental, boasting a very lengthy instrumental mid-song section. And the riffs, here, in this nearly twelve-minute long beast are also of note, as they gradually grow bigger and heavier, until the point where they are virtually devastating. Next up is another epically epic song in "Bleeding The Pigs," which has some tribal-flavored percussion percolating throughout, as it does a wealth of really deft, dexterous, thumping, and exceptionally technical (yet somehow simultaneously rhythmic) drum patterns. Needless to say, "Bleeding..." does also boast some memorable guitar chops, but it is, for the most part, the drummer's show, as he fills it with a bunch of really, eminently unforgettable beats.
Then things take a turn for the more melodic and progressive side of the line, as "Casting Of The Ages" opens with a gorgeous bit of twin-guitar acoustic strumming and hushed, delicate-sounding vocal muttering. But this is before the song takes off onto a lengthy, sustained, bludgeoning, Crowbar-worthy doom metal trek. And the final two songs, "All Is Found...In Time" and the very Sunn O)))-esque "Raise The Dawn" follow similar blueprints, incorporating some vocal variation into the mix without ever coming across as diluted or overly-experimental. With that said, though, "All Is Found...In Time" is actually mostly a standout track (one of the album's biggest) on account of it featuring some furious, pummeling drums, and for closing with a distinctly Pink Floyd-ian, futuristic-sounding (and thus very memorable) melody.
"Honor Found In Decay" is not quite as good or powerful as that previously mentioned 2007 release, "Given To The Rising." Furthermore, many listeners will be a bit turned off by the record's inaccessibility and unconventionality. But once you get over yourself long enough to explore new realms with an open mind, you are in for a real treat, as this is not only a standout in Neurosis' discography, it is also one of the finest progressive metal/music releases of the new millennium. Definitely check it out!