Neurosis – Fires Within Fires (Neurot Recordings, 23 September 2016)
So Neurosis are heading out on tour RIGHT NOW. That news by itself will immediately be a huge deal to most people who read this sentence. They’re only hitting a handful of cities across the northeastern U.S. (and southeastern Canada) over the next week and a half, but this is a band that infreuquently performs live in the first place, and very rarely visits the east coast outside the context of a larger music festival (such as Baltimore’s Days of Darkness which they’ll be headlining in October). So, yeah.
But sometimes when it comes to bands that have been around seemingly forever (well over thirty years, in this case) and have achieved a near-universal legendary status (at least, for these guys, among the majority of fans of post-hardcore/sludge metal), it’s easy to forget that there are some folks out there who may not already be intimately familiar with them. Easy to just assume that everyone knows them, disregarding the fact that there’s always somebody who has yet to make that big discovery.
After all, though, that’s the whole point of writing about music: to help someone learn about something that could potentially be life-changing. The About page of this website describes exactly that — while also referencing a particular time period of exploration for myself, which in that narrative was described as “The Napster Years,” but frankly a huge part of my own rebirth as a metal music fan directly resulted from finding Relapse Records CD samplers (like this one and this one) at a local record store (more info here and here for the younger readers). Interestingly, three of the artists that had really jumped out at younger me and grabbed my attention are ones I have written about here, just this month: Today is the Day, Dying Fetus, and now, Neurosis.
Specifically, there were a couple of songs from the band’s then-new album A Sun that Never Sets which I bought not long afterwards, and which was — front-to-back — one of the most amazing things I’d ever experienced. So in light of all that, I’m pleased to present — to any of you who may not have heard this yet — their latest release, 2016’s Fires Within Fires.
While Neurosis may have shifted pretty drastically from their initial hardcore punk origins, they’ve spent at least the past two decades at the top of the post-hardcore/progressive sludge mountain, pretty much defining those two genres while simultaneously presenting an incredibly accurate sonic portrayal of their name. Just five songs long but spanning more than forty minutes, this new album shows that after all these years, the band can still churn out forlorn and twisted introspective explorations as well as ever.
Unsurprisingly, the record starts out slow and heavy with “Bending Light,” filled with the swirly/psychedelic/detuned elements that have long made up the Neurosis sound — here sort of like the opening of the previously-mentioned A Sun that Never Sets blended with a much sludgier version of “The Nile Song.” Huge, heavy guitar and bass tones emerge out of nowhere, and off we go. Centered around slow and emphatic drumming, underscored with random noise, these songs mostly feature both vocalists’ slightly-harsh and gutwrenchingly expressive shout-singing, often alternating parts or even overlapping.
“Broken Ground,” with its back-masked chords emulating organ sounds (in conjunction with what I believe are actual harmonicas) and somewhat cleaner singing, comes across as an interesting kind of warped post-sludge-Americana style. While the track does kick into a heavier gear before long (switching back and forth a time or two), it ultimately breaks down to a mellower (and kind of dismal) place near the end, leading straight into “Reach” which is a rather lengthy (ten and a half minutes) and convoluted trip during which one’s sanity seems to be gradually degrading — finally ending the album somewhat disconcertingly with the song title being called out…
Buy Fires Within Fires right here.
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