without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Before I begin this review, let me begin by apologizing in advance for my apparent lack of knowledge in the field of musical composition and theory. This if my first album review:
A couple of days ago I decided to sit down and listen to Neurosis' complete discography. What better way to generate a full consensus on a band then listening to every song they've ever recorded right? Everyone who's familiar with their history knows that these titans of metal began originally as a hardcore punk outfit. "Souls at Zero" saw Neurosis transforming their sound to new and undiscovered territory. But enough with the cheese. Let me just get down to it. To me, it seemed like every single album that prefaced "A Sun That Never Sets" lead up to this particular moment. This record represents a culmination of artistic talent and innovation. Not only does Neurosis show off their dynamic capabilities in complete fashion, but "A Sun That Never Sets" finds these guys writing and performing at their absolute best, without worrying about protocols that are set in place to dictate exactly what they should sound like.
Listening to the whole album in one sitting feels like a cinematic experience. Each track pushes the music further and further, and subsequently, the listener grows a vicarious bond with the uncompromisingly fierce emotions that are being exhibited through the performances. "Crawl Back In," the seventh track, is one of Neurosis' greatest and most endearing moments in their nearly 30 year career. The line "time is truth, hard and cruel" reflects the brutal truth of gradual degradation; in whatever sense that may be. It was during this song that I had become aware of the almost unrivaled talent that these guys have to offer. No matter how long the bands stays around, they will make it their mission to continuously distribute authentically original and individualistic music.
I went on to listen to the rest of their discography. While every album to succeed this one is great in unique ways, "A Sun That Never Sets" seemed like it took that time out to lay everything out for its listeners. Whether it be to sit in awe at the unflinchingly raw brilliance of one of the most influential metal acts of all time, or to simply contemplate on its gritty and dark lyrical themes, Neurosis' seventh studio album is, in this metalhead's opinion, their magnum opus, and one of the most daring and emotionally unforgiving metal albums to ever be released.
Now I know what you're thinking. I didn't go into the specifics of production, sound, or how these songs are presented in terms of structure and format. The truth is I'm not strongly familiar with these kinds of things. My judge of what makes an album good or bad may differ than the dispositions of the larger demographics around. Despite all of these things, the fact remains that "A Sun That Never Sets" generated the strongest emotional response from me during this most enjoyable marathon that I decided to embark on. This album is timeless. Check it out.
Post metal is an ambiguous term. Ask three people what the genre is and you are likely to get three different answers. The genre covers such a huge array of styles that its very legitimacy has come under scrutiny from the metal world. Perhaps one could argue that the post metal style does not exist, instead the term is often used to describe progressive, sludge and black metal bands that have elements from post rock and shoegazing among other genres. Therefore it seems that post metal is a continuation of a genres original blue print, and therefore is more of an idea rather than a concrete musical form. In the general eye of the metal public post metal loosely defines bands such as Cult of Luna, Isis, Pelican, Rosetta and most importantly Neurosis. Based on that, post metal comes to define doom and post hardcore/sludge metal bands that have elements from non metal genres such as post rock and ambient. This is where the term “atmospheric sludge metal” has come into prominence in order to better define post metal. Indeed, many of the bands associated with the sludgy post metal scene have ties to the hardcore/post hardcore scene. Harshly yelled vocals and dissonant chords torn directly out of a hardcore book are often used by bands of this caste, and therefore post metal comes to define metallic hardcore bands with elements from post rock. However, this leaves out countless of other bands such as Alcest and Agalloch who, whilst often classified as post metal have zero connections to the hardcore scene. Post metal therefore is rather a progression of the original traits of a genre rather than a distinctive sound.
By using this definition, then A Sun That Never Sets certainly fits the criteria. At its heart this is a sludge metal album. Harshly screamed vocals, abrasive guitars, slow tempos, a thick overbearing atmosphere, all the criteria for what sludge metal is can be applied to this album. However this is far from typical sludge as there is far more going on here than what such a genre label would typically entail. The songs are often long and drawn out with expansive instrumental passages. The post rock elements are present in how the songs flow, with each song having a strong sense of forward momentum; they twist and turn running through multiple transitions. Each song is often centered around a slow and gradual build up before a sudden release of energy. Whilst this aspect of song writing is often overused, Neurosis adds a fresh take on it by mixing a number of different elements into their music. The instrumental sections are long and exhausting, they are suitably bleak and unimaginably dreary conjuring up images of a decaying urbanized world. The metallic sections are rough and abrasive, with a sense of anger that comes across as primal and desperate.
Scott Kelly isn't the best vocalist I've heard but his voice suits the atmosphere of A Sun That Never Sets. He sounds just as you’d expect someone suffering through crippling depression to sound; angry, frightened, tired, exhausted and hopeless. His voice carries a massive amount of emotion and when mixed in with the poetic and powerful lyrics the sound is enhanced tenfold. All aspects of the album come together to form an image of being weary of life, there’s not much energy behind the music, even the harder sections are suitably tired and languid. Going on what I've described so far the reader may be led to expect something boring and uninteresting, referring to this album as tired will undoubtedly send signals off in all the wrong places. Yes, this album is tired, but it works with it. What I mean is that whilst it might feel apathetic on first glance, it’s easy to get sucked into the dreary and even detached atmosphere of this album. It takes a while to get into this album, I’ll admit it took me about a dozen before it managed to sink in. This is not an easy album and I really can’t stress that enough. A Sun That Never Sets is an album for people who are looking for music that’s deep, atmospheric and takes a while to fully sink into. Don’t be discouraged if this album doesn't sit right on the first few listens, this is an album that is more than just a grower, this is an album so steeped in complexity that one could find new elements with each subsequent listens. Going on that, this could be one of the most entertaining or boring albums you've heard in your life, make of that what you will.
Neurosis' 'A Sun That Never Sets' represents a quieter age of the band. To awaken the dormant beast, you must stir him. In this instance, the listener is the dormant beast and Neurosis are the very element that will stir and drain every emotion you could possibly feel. Much like 'The Eye of Every Storm', Neurosis have opted for a more intense and atmospherically pleasing approach. A Sun That Never Sets is a long and winding journey across many soundscapes. You will come across every musical terrain as possible and live every emotion man can muster. Neurosis are as powerful as ever. As intense as ever. And more importantly, as brilliant as ever.
Never before the moment upon first hearing this full-length have I been left with such a great impression. Words fail me. Whether we're talking about the beautifully crafted title track, or the immensely powerful and potent Watchfire, each and every song plays a part in creating a masterpiece beyond all comprehension.
"Walking amongst the stones
from the sky, feeling their rhythm wash over me."
Neurosis have always had a stark ability to be able to speak to the listener through their lyrics and seemingly use their lyrics to act as a metaphor for how the music will make you feel. The listener will be taken higher than ever before with Neurosis' undoubted qualities at being able to uplift your mood and set it back down with a stunning ambient riff. Beyond the sky is where Neurosis can take you. They have the ability to be able to control your emotions with beautiful ambience and fantastic song writing. The rhythmic backbone will wash over you and sweep you away. Using the forces of nature in the lyrics, is pleasing to read. As an avid fan of literature and poetry, I am very fond of all things nature related. Specifically written pieces of art that depict nature as a force to be reckoned with. If nature is the mother of all things, then Neurosis is the mother of nature. Neurosis are boundless. They are a force that drives on through powerfully pounded drums and exceptional solos. A force stronger than nature itself.
Neurosis are accustomed to change, as are their fans accustomed to the band changing. The problems people seem to have with the difference between this full-length and earlier pieces is confusing. Neurosis themselves aptly suggest what those listeners should do, "A time to think back and move on." Neurosis have evolved, and with that evolution comes a sound so frightfully beautiful, it's unbelievable until you hear it for yourselves. The addition of backing vocals is welcomed. It adds depth to the songs and builds upon the lead vocals. The addition of samples and keys is highly effective. They create stunning sounds and emotive atmospheres which will please all.
The most important aspect of Neurosis isn't the awe inspiring vocals of Scott Kelly, or the spectacular ambience, it's all about the lyrics. They evoke such emotion and are perfectly suited to the music. They ask questions of the listener and describe precisely how Neurosis are evolving and how they wish to take you for the ride.
"Under the cloud cover, the flares signal change.
Will you ever know?
The fields they are burning, the smoke chokes your breath.
Will you stand or run?
You dream of a mountain, the peaks rise to the sky.
Will you answer its call?
Is your heart still beating? Can you feel this at all?
This landslide will bury us all."
To me, this all explains what I have previously said. With all the expectations listeners had upon first listening to this full-length, they should let them go as Neurosis welcome change. With the use of rhetoric Neurosis are seemingly asking if the fans will stand by them during this change, "Will you stand or run?", and by the end of it all, those who survived the current change will have to withstand more change as time presses on.
A Sun That Never Sets is the landmark of Neurosis' career in the music industry.
Veteran post metal band Neurosis's masterpiece, A Sun That Never Sets, is one of the darkest work of art one will ever hear. Each song has almost the same pace, but this does not take away from the experience, it makes the tracks flow into each other, creating an apocalypse in 60 minutes. Yet, some may not be able to discern one piece from the other, and if not listened to in the proper way, may take away from the experience, presenting the only flaw of this otherwise amazing album. The tracks may also sound similar, but each one has its own unique nightmare encompassed in the doom/sludge metal music and ugly vocals.
Neurosis has two vocalists, Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly. Once you hear both you will immediately notice the difference between the two. They sound similar, but Von Till has a softer, technically better voice, while Kelly, clean singing, and has a rougher voice. From my understanding, Kelly does the heavier vocals.
The album opens with the instrumental "Erode", setting the tone with atonal feedback and dinosaur-dying-in-a-tar-pit pace, as it fades out, the opening ambience of "The Tide" leads in to the album's stand out track. Starting as an apocalyptic folk song with acoustics and violins underneath Steve Von Till's dark, soft voice, it gives way to a breathtaking climax where the listener gets a taste of what the rest of this album will be like; slow drums, heavy guitars, tortured vocals. The next piece, "From the Hill" is even slower, an almost minimalist metal. The title track is the most accessible, with an ever so slightly quickened pace and straight forward doom metal, slightly reminiscing of Black Sabbath.
"Falling Unknown" is the most post metal-esque song on A Sun That Never Sets. It has a Godspeed You! Black Emperor-like suite feel to it, with the first piece having a bluesy feel, and the best vocal performance on the album, with Kelly's prolonged howls. The next part to "Falling Unknown" begins with shuffling drums and builds up with dark piano chords and violins, and then erupts with the typical Neurosis sound, eventually settling back down into howling acepella finish. "From Where It's Roots Run" keeps up with the slightly faster middle section of the album, with tribal vocals that give the experience of the Mayan Indian tribe when 2012 rolls around.
"Crawl Back In" starts with an almost uplifting guitar intro, but quickly gives way to a single atonal guitar. This is the slowest track on the album. It is different than most of the songs on A Sun That Never Sets, with soft, heartbroken melodies that would provide a sense of hope if they weren't surrounded by a hellish maelstrom.
"Watchfire" begins with Kelly singing, over ominous minimalist guitar. It is the hardest piece to listen to, as it often switches from the softer sections with Kelly singing, to the typical dirge metal assault found on the rest of the album. "Resound" sets the mood for the final stage of this apocalypse, sounding a lot like opening piece "Erode". Finally, the album concludes with "Stones from the Sky". The apocalyptic name well represents the sounds hidden inside. Opening with funeral-like bells and soft guitar, and Kelly singing again for the first two minutes, giving way to the most tortured vocal performance on the whole album, and ends rather abruptly, with everything crashing down at once with a hellish scream, and the nightmare is over.
There isn't really any problems with the album, except it might take some forceful listening to do so, as the songs are all centered around the same tempo. Other than that, it is flawless.
On 'A Sun That Never Sets' Neurosis play a brand of post-sludge that focuses on a steady, perhaps one could say, ambient rhythm. As a consequence of this, the composition meanders along consistently, developing a feeling of a slow, militaristic march into the depths of some bleak existence. There is some truly good stuff on here, some excellent clean sections that add to the sparseness of the composition. Also present is crushing sludge/doom type riffing mixed with ringing detuned chord arrangements that are backed by a densely processed guitar production, which comes down with the weight of a lead block. The vocals are generally lacking in range and usually take the form of a half-hardcore scream with a raspy edge, or sometimes monotone crooning in the punk sense of clean vocals. But although they are without the operatic dynamism of the better extreme metal vocal stylings they serve as an emotionless backdrop that adds to the eerie, desolate atmosphere that the band is trying to produce.
Where can a band fall down when they have this entire array of positives going for them? The answer lies in the fact that it isn't just the sound alone that dictates the quality of the music, it is the immense journey that it takes you on. Here there is a journey - to a place without feeling, a nihilistic haven for the depressed souls of this world that could not handle the loneliness of existence, nor the futility of modern society. One may look into Neurosis' collective eye and see a bleak, empty world staring back at them, gaining the impression that nought can be done to subside the meaningless of life or the destruction of man. Where is the celebration of this dark life, the beautification of death as found in the best bands that excelled in the genre? It is not here, instead we unfortunately find depressingly bleak sorties that share the apathy of grindcore. Life rewards those who make the best of what they have, not those who accept the worst with an eager sense of fatalism as seems to be promoted here. Thus, in reality this album comes off as a 'jam session' that is surprisingly coherent. But that is all it is, a jam session that is pleasing to the ear, but has no real purpose or direction - entertaining for a few listens but what can one take out of it but a temporary sense of hedonistic satisfaction? Perhaps it sounds better when exposed to excess amounts of THC, but quite frankly this does not interest this writer too much as the best music is a drug of its own.
Neurosis have created what I consider in many ways their best album, or at least their most mature album. Far from the grinding noise of yore, this is more like Through Silver in Blood, but in many ways more written out then even that album. The feeling on this recording is of the march of life, how each event occurs and then an event is on the horizon and though you struggle against its coming still it comes and without hesitation. A ceaseless steady march of life, existence and history.
The band recorded this album with Steve Albini, and being very familiar with his work due to the fact of listening to Shellac, Big Black, Rapeman and owning many of the albums he has recorded, I have to say that he has only gotten better as a producer. This album is everything I love about his producing style and nothing I hate. The vocals unlike most of his recordings are up front, while the drums have the distinctive and violent presence that he always has managed to capture. The guitars are full, and like usual with his productions the bass is quite present and perfectly for Neurosis looming.
This album is tied together by a general sense of bleakness and the overwhelming presence of being wearied by life. There is a strange tired quality to this album that makes is very much a hangover album. It is looking backwards and forwards at the same time, desiring to escape from the endless cycle of life, yet resigned to it.
Yes you could call is post metal, but it is ultimately metal and its roots are very obvliously in the sludge metal genre, but there is something so much more cosmic about this, something so beautiful and possessed, that Neurosis ultimately transcend all genres and are simply Neurosis. Many people who liked their noisier recordings, may not like this much, but if you're like me and prefer the darker, more mature side of Neurosis, this album is essential.
If I was in Neurosis, I'd be pretty pissed off. Young upstarts (Isis, Pelican, Cult of Luna..) are doing something that these guys have done for years, and now, they're being praised to the skies (Fair enough though..) while Neurosis, despite putting out brilliant albums for over 15 years, have generally been ignored. While this album may not reach giddy heights of Panopticon, I'd like to challenge anyone to find a Post-Metal album this good.
The album kicks off with a short little instrumental, some strange, squealing guitar thingies flying around before a solid drum beat enters and pieces start falling into place. The first real song, "The tide" is pretty mellow, and driven by some clean vocals. There's the usual Neurosis here: the great use of dynamics, the good layering of instruments, the subtle ebb and flow of the music. Synths and violins float around in the background, while a piano comes in once in a while. Spine-tingling, majestic stuff here folks. Then, the guitars kick in, and you're suddenly in an epic, sad and super heavy song. As far as songs go, it's hard to beat.
Some people will critisice this album as being too "Post-Rock" but that couldn't be further from the truth. Post Rock for the most part relies on the quiet at start noisy at end dynamics, but Neurosis have none of that. Every song weaves and twists, and you have no idea what you'll be hearing next. You might have the strange, tribal kind of beat of the title track, the powerful, alien atmosphere in Resound, the heavy, meaty riffs in Watchfire, or the painfully beautiful middle section in the excellent Crawl Back In, with clean guitars and a mournful, beautiful violin part being played over it.
One thing you'll notice is that for all the epic-ness, this whole album sounds really earthy, like a less heavy, more dynamic version of Isis's Celestial. You get the feeling that this record could've been recorded 15,000 years ago, back when we lived in caves or whatever. There's a huge primal thing about this whole album, which is reinforced by the great, deep lyrics and the primal voices of Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till. While they're not the most amazing singers ever, there's so much passion in their voices, which more then makes up for it.
The production deserves a mention here too. Steve Albini is a very well known producer, and here you can see why; everything is in it's perfect place, guitars are meaty, the drums sound big, and the vocals fit perfectly in the mix. Neurosis wouldn't sound too good if they where produced like Darkthrone; they need a full, rich sound to get the full point across.
This record is basically essential listening for those who like Metal that's complex, deep and takes lots of listening to fully understand. Neurosis are an amazing band, and if there was any musical justice in this world, you'd see them on MTV instead of all them crappy pop acts. Deep, moving and really quite awesome.
Edit: Having recently purchased the rest of the Neurosis Discography, I can say while this is still an awesome record, it's got nothing on the previous few albums or the Eye of Every Storm. Marked down by 10%. Still a great album though!
Neurosis is one of those cult bands in extreme music that transcend labels and genres and seem to have a devoted fanbase. 20 years of brutally heavy, yet thoughtful and dynamic extreme music will do that, and they fully deserve the credit they get. This particular record takes them to a more mellow direction, often utilizing some cleaner vocals, perhaps due to the solo projects of Scott and Steve that were released around the same time period. However, mellow in Neurosis terms does not mean a loss of the trademark chugging-flowing heavy riffs and dynamic rhythm section that the band has been famous for. Stones from the Sky, familiar to some via the video clip that has gotten some play on music channels is the standout track, working off a brilliant, simple little riff that just flows through the listener's body. I'm gonna call it the most transcendental metal song. Sun that never sets is also a remarkable effort, albeit a bit too short. Falling Unkown is the second best song on here, with the cacophony at the end, around the 11minute mark, but the slower, drawn out riffs work well throughout the song. The singing is also notable.
Neurosis' lyrics are simple on this album, yet the passion with which they are delivered make them work. They have a hypnotic type of effect, and fit in pretty well with the music and Neurosis' views (Sun metaphors, their outlook, etc -I almost used the word philosophy, but as a person who reads a lot of real philosophy and is discusted with the abuse of the word from basketball coaches, to Jerry Springer I'm not going to-.)
A highly recommended album for fans of the Neurosis sound, because it has the goods of the old brutal sound, but it incorporates melody exceptionally well. For all fans of extreme music that will alter your listening habits.
NEUROSIS - A Sun That Never Sets (Relapse Records~2001)
Sometimes an album comes my way that I sit down to comment on but lack the words. "A Sun That Never Sets" is that sort of release and goes beyond mere words and simple explanation. It is an experience and thus can literally only BE experienced rather than explained. The best I can say is it represents a journey through moody soundscapes, emotionally drenched vocals and passionistic, thick guitarwork. I think these guys have listened to a lot of PINK FLOYD and Doom Metal. The slow, sludgy pace reaches new dimensions of musical expression that cause the juices to flow in your brain as you try and come to terms or decipher what is going on. It is a heavy, solid album to fully digest in solitude, preferrably with the volume cranked up. This is not the kind of album you can put in the background and do something. It requires your full attention.