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There's not much to be said about Neurosis that hasn't been said. Violent, powerful, crushing, numbing; those are some terms one can come up with upon first listen. But after each repeated listen, and after letting go of all pretenses and just feeling the music, one can only come up with a single word for the whole Neurosis experience.. Cathartic. Yes folks, this is the kind of music that warms the insides of those most primitive, who see very much in darkness but still search for a light. It's a type of music for people who feel some sort pain, or blocked by percieved barriers. It's real music.
Given to the Rising is Neurosis' most recent outing, and after a lengthy time with it, I've come to the agreement that this really is the most achieved and interesting release of their whole catalogue. It manages to use repetition without repeating itself, the right contrast of beauty and beastly, and of course two perfectly executed extremes. The way that the boys in Neurosis mesh together in the quiet/loud way they do is perfectly fine tuned. You really start to notice this after hearing the first two tracks (the title track and Fear & Sickness, respectively) and the beginning of To The Wind. After repeated listens, the dynamics start showing themselves even more, leaving you with a full picture and a better idea of music.
Track 4, At The End Of The Road, switches things up a bit. Very ambient in nature, until it turns into a tranquilizer of a beast. It's one of the longer songs, (8:25) so there's plenty of time to get stoned and get real deep into the song. The creepy intonations in the beginning are gripping, and when the full vocals come in they are so much more powerful. "Fall unto!" are the last violent cries you hear before more creepy quietness, topped off with a spoken word passage worthy of the noise with it, which marks the end of what I like to refer to as "the 1st Movement" of this album.
Next we're up with the most intimidating song tracking to ever grace my ears. A one-two-three punch knockout of Neurosis at their heaviest, beginning with Hidden Faces, which doesn't mind taking it's time to assault you from all angles, turning into an all-consuming vehicle of power. You can't help but to move your body to the waves of music; you wouldn't be human otherwise. The same follows with the next two, as Water Is Not Enough has one of the golden moments on the album with it's last riff into noise, and Distill is another wrecking ball of Neurosisness, with some crazy shit going down all the way through, morphing into another creepy spoken word passage.
Of course, the last song on the album, Origin, is about the largest percieved thing to ever come off any kind of record. I know this obviously sounds like gloating on and on about the band and kissing their asses, but when it all boils down to, there is absolutely no denying Neurosis writes good music. Anyways, back to the review. When Origin starts up, there is a distinct Times Of Grace vibe floating around in there, you'll see what I mean. I'd rather not fail at doing the song justice with words (an impossible feat itself), and will leave you with this bit of opinion.
If you've already heard Through Silver in Blood, Times of Grace, Enemy of the Sun, etc., but are wondering what Neurosis would sound like with all those accumulative elements, then this is the album. If you really listen to it, it will not disappoint you.
Neurosis have made some of the best and most difficult heavy metal music of the past twenty years. From their humble beginnings as a mediocre hardcore band, they soon evolved into a sludge metal band that incorporated elements of their hardcore past with the atmospherics of ambient and industrial music. Souls at Zero was a metal revolution; it remains one of the most original and heaviest albums of all time. Afterwards, they proved themselves further with Enemy of the Sun, Through Silver in Blood, and Times of Grace, but didn't really evolve their sound until their 2001 magnum opus A Sun That Never Sets. It showed a giant leap in songwriting for the band, doing away with their sometimes repetitive heavier songs and focusing more on the atmospherics, which became so bleak they were near unbearable. 2004 showed Neurosis blending their mid-period styling with A Sun That Never Set's atmospherics, creating yet another Neurosis era, and honestly the first time they sounded like true veterans. Which brings us to Given to the Rising, which could very well serve as a "sound collage" for Neurosis's past.
Given to the Rising is the first Neurosis album that utilizes their sludge AS the atmosphere, creating a dense wade through a tar pit, to reach the other side and realize you just crossed the river Styx. Some of the passages in "To the Wind" and "Hidden Faces" are reminiscent of Neurosis's ambient folk side project, Blood & Time. "To the Wind" and "Water is Not Enough" contain some of Steve Von Till's best vocal work, furthermore, "Water is Not Enough" showcases him at one of his most guttural moments. "Water is Not Enough" contains the "lost souls" that opened A Sun That Never Sets, and leads into "Distill (Watching the Storm)", which might be Neurosis's best showcase of dynamics. The standout is "At the End of the Road". It's like watching the apocalypse crawl at you like a giant zombie, and you are unable to escape. It also serves as more evidence to how great Neurosis is dynamically. The epic closer "Origin" is the only track on the whole album that uses Scott Kelly as a vocalist, which is unfortunate because of his great voice, but appropriate as their new style seems to fit Von Till's style better.
The only place the album really suffers is it seems to plod through some sections with no direction, as most evident in "Fear and Sickness". Still, it's a great reminder that Neurosis are still many steps ahead of their peers, and another incredible work of art in one of the most consistent metal discography's one could find.
Since the release of Through Silver In Blood, Neurosis has steadily become one of the most influential bands in extreme metal. Their influence has spread beyond the post-metal sub-genre and the countless Neurosis clones that they spawned to influencing black and death metal bands. Admittedly, the last couple of albums has seen the band slow down a bit and experiment with slightly calmer structures and while the last album, 2004's The Eye Of Every Storm was terrific in its own right, it didn’t really display the visceral intensity of the band’s earlier work. Given To The Rising is the band’s eighth full length recording and was released earlier this year.
Right from the start of this album you get the feeling that Neurosis is onto something special here. As the title song rumbles out of the speakers with its vintage Neurosis riff, the band yet again prove that there’s nobody who can even come close when it comes to creating that dense wall of sound. To The Wind feels like the band was paying close attention to Isis’ last album In The Absence Of Truth, as a calm soft guitar part starts proceedings before the song transforms into another crawling, lurching behemoth in true Neurosis fashion. At The End Of The Road is another terrific song starting off almost ambient like before the dense riffing, thunderous drumming and Kelly’s big man bawling vocal style come together to create another crushing experience.
Shadow is a short ambient piece with spoken word narration that allows the listener to catch his breath and breaks up the claustrophobic density that was created by the ending of At The End Of The Road and the cold riffing of the following song Hidden Faces. Water Is Not Enough is probably the most accessible song on the album with an opening riff that’s as traditionally metal as Neurosis have gotten to playing in a while although the song does progress into a Melvins kind of groove. The album closes with Origin and while I won’t even bother to describe this song I have to say that it’s worth the price of this album on it’s own. Vintage Neurosis and an absolute classic song.
What elevates the songwriting on this album is the dynamics. The interplay between the thunderously heavy and the almost gentle ambience all topped up by Scott Kelly’s tortured vocals hasn’t sounded this good in a long while. It is a bit pointless to go through each song (although I did it anyway), suffice to say that there are no individual highlights here. Every song on Given To The Rising is there for a reason and like the band’s best works, the songs all come together to create a sonic experience that is simply unmatched. I also have to mention the band’s use of electronics. It’s subtle and often hiding beneath the surface but is present on every song and does a tremendous job of enhancing the atmosphere of this album. Four years after their last album, after creating a new genre almost single handedly, with that genre, post-metal starting to become the new trend, and bands like Isis flirting with mainstream acceptance, this was the album that Neurosis had to make. There isn’t anything here that’s new for the band but it’s like they distilled the finest essence of everything that they’ve done in a recording career spanning twenty years and then used it to write Given To The Rising.
If you’ve never heard Neurosis before, then this is the perfect place to start as Given To The Rising displays the many facets of this incredible band. For the long time fan of this band, Given To The Rising is simply validation of the fact that Neurosis are still the undisputed masters of this style.
Continuing where they left off, Neurosis are back with their tenth full-length record, a fantastic achievement. 'Given To The Rising' is an odd Neurosis record, it doesn't continue the trend of evolving, in my eyes. Neurosis have stood still for the first time in their career. 'Given To The Rising' is just a continuation of what 'The Eye Of Every Storm' started to experiment with. To be honest, that isn't a bad thing. The aforementioned full-length was one of Neurosis' best, in my opinion. It developed a new sound like Neurosis have never seen before. It's focused a lot more on progression in terms of atmosphere, whereas Neurosis used to focus on sound experimentation in terms of their former aggressive sound. Well, I say former, but it still continues today.
'Given To The Rising' has that spaced out feel 'The Eye Of Every Storm' had. This is largely due to the use of keyboards. They create a distinctive sound throughout, a sound that is very appealing to the senses in every human being. It's a sound that tends to twirl and swirl it's way around the instruments. Especially the guitars. Considering the fact Neurosis use two guitarists, it has a big job on it's hands, but still, it does a fantastic job of wrapping itself around those powerful riffs and keeping them, as well as the listener, enclosed in a small space from which the noise cannot escape anywhere but in to your ear drums and through your body. The title track is a particularly good indication of this swirling sound. The keyboards are used prominently throughout the song and they're used very well. As I also said, the use of two guitarists serves well to the atmosphere Neurosis have decided to spend much more time developing this time round. One guitarist plays one riff, whilst the other layers a different, yet more subtle sound on top of it. Neurosis do this superbly, it has to be said.
Progression in terms of vocals hasn't really been on the cards for a long time for Neurosis and it's a particular area that doesn't really require much change. What with the low sound of the guitars, the vocals guttural bombardment doesn't need to change. Whilst the keyboards give an airy feel to the music, the vocals aim to keep a bit of that aggression we're so used to alive and kicking. They do a fantastic job of it as well. There are times when the guitars revert back to how they were on full-lengths like 'A Sun That Never Sets' and produce a more advancing and aggressive touch. This is an element that should surely delight fans of the older sound, but also tweak their interests in this new, multi-dimensional sound. New fans will be acquired by 'Given To The Rising' as well, which can only be a good thing.
I'm a big fan of that tribal feel that hovers ever so closely in the background. It's unique and totally owned by Neurosis. I've never heard another band produced this sort of tribal feel and execute it so well. Hats off to Neurosis for that, again. Of course, it helps when you have fantastic musicians who can amply incorporate synths into the mix, as well as other instruments like keyboards, an organ and the piano. The songwriting has to be taken note of again, as well. Neurosis have been on top form for over a decade now when it comes to these imperative elements of music. Neurosis have always had good lyrics as well. Lyrics that tend to appeal massively to people who like to analyse them, as well as the senses. Using themes of nature and colour do this effectively.
"Of black to cut us down
Of white to light our sound
Of red to burn and drown
And grey to spread like ash to the ground"
As we can see. In terms of highlights, 'Given To The Rising', 'To The Wind' and 'Water Is Not Enough' should have audiences salivating uncontrollably.
This album is easily one of the best records Neurosis has ever put out, if not a contender for their absolute best. It's astonishing how effortlessly the band seems to evolve from release to release... and each time, they only get better. Upon listening to this record I was somewhat blown away by the fact that after more than twenty years they've still been putting out music at the same stupendous level of quality that they did when they were fresh and new to the music world.
The album's lyrical themes seem to center around the usual Neurosis stuff: tribal rituals, spiritual challenges and triumphs, and lots of religious allegory thrown in the mix. It seems like Neurosis's lyrical content is one of the few things that rarely changes from album to album. I don't have a huge problem with this; while their lyrics certainly aren't the best in the world, they're distinctive, and suffice it to say, Neurosis would be a very different band without them. The vocals are the usual scratchy, rough, and characteristic roar, except they're a bit lower in the mix this time. Scott Kelly gets in some gut-wrenchingly long and brutal howls near the end of the third track, To The Wind, the final lasting over twenty nine seconds. Really fantastic, if slightly unnerving, stuff. The fairly standard vocal style of the band's vocalists is more than made up for with the enormously visible passion they put into everything they sing. It's enough to make hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
The production of the album is once again handled by the great Steve Albini, one of the finest producers in the business. His usual warm drum and guitar production, as well as a characteristically organic guitar tone, set the stage fantastically well. Albini is one of the best things to happen to Neurosis in a long time; the band has come a long way since their older recordings like 1992's Enemy Of The Sun and 1995's Through Silver And Blood, and Albini's production is likely a big part of that. Everything is wonderfully crisp, but not sharp - the heavy moments (and believe me, there are plenty of them) are wonderfully crushing and dense, just the way they should be, and some of Neurosis's best riffs are on this record.
It seems that there has been even more attention paid to the more ambient parts of every track, and this has proved to be enormously effective. Some of Neurosis's old experiments with post-rock and ambience have proved to be disastrous; just see the achingly long and dull track Strength Of Fates, off of 1995's Through Silver And Blood. But on this latest offering these often-dreaded sections have become beautifully elegant and crisp, no longer prone to bad song-writing or pointless meandering, but perfectly emotive and subtle. Lately, Neurosis has been putting out albums that are constantly labeled as their 'swansong' or their 'best work'. But they just keep getting better.
The title track is, quite simply, a Neurosis classic. It's at once very unique, yet perfectly representative of the band's style, and would make a great introduction to Neurosis for anyone. It immediately assaults you with a grueling riff from the get-go, and continues on this way for awhile, swapping out the tense riffage with two perfectly placed atmospheric sections that set up the jaw-dropping synth-soaked finale of the song perfectly. 9.4/10
Fear And Sickness is probably my least favorite track on the album, but it's still great. With lots of ominous bass work and crushing riffs, it's probably the heaviest song on the album. There's a semi-fast riff near the end of the song that absolutely kills, and the drumming throughout the track is probably the among best on the album, aside from Distill. 8.6/10
To The Wind is, quite obviously... a departure. An experiment. And I'm happy to say that it succeeded. This is easily the album's standout track, and definitely my favorite; a beautiful, melodic, almost happy - almost - track with a fantastic repeating riff and harmony section that kicks in a few minutes into the song. Tremendously unique... and wonderfully heavy. I would absolutely love to see more songs from Neurosis in this vein. Totally kick-ass track, with some exceptionally brutal vocals near the end. 9.7/10
At The End Of The Road begins with a long atmospheric section, something that will likely turn off some people. This track took the longest to grow on me - I found the distorted vocals a little grating at first, but now I love it overall. I would easily compare this to Purify, one of the best tracks off of Through Silver And Blood, as the song structure is quite similar, if a little more drawn out, and a little less rewarding. However, every part of the song is very solid and well-written, and the latter half of the song is definitely very dark and powerful. A challenging listen. 9/10
Shadow is the first of two filler tracks. I don't care too much for either of these; while they certainly aren't bad, and serve as little breaks nicely, there's nothing particular noteworthy about them. The spoken word bit is great, though, very well-written, and definitely creepy. 6.5/10
Hidden Faces is another standout track. It's the shortest song on the album, excluding the two filler tracks. It begins with a Godflesh-esque slash of guitar feedback - at least, that's what I think it is - and eventually settles into lurching, groovy riffs that continue for the rest of the song. The synths and keyboards throughout this song are particularly noteworthy, and the vocal bits are rather catchy. I love the way this song ends. 8.8/10
Water Is Not Enough was the first track released from the album, and it's probably one of the best. It begins with a rather odd riff which leads into one of the best heavy (and LOUD) parts on the album very nicely. The vocals on this song are quite different from the vocals on the rest of the album, but I love them. They're kind of snarly and raspy - more so, that is. This song is also a little faster than the others on the album. The last
riff in the song is, in typical Neurosis fashion, probably the best. Fantastic song. 9.1/10
Distill (Watching The Swarm) has the best atmospheric, 'post-rocky' moments on the album. The intro riff is quite catchy, as is the drum work that goes along with it, speaking of which - the drum work on this song is probably the best on the album. There are a lot of noisy, distorted bits, too, which are something I always enjoy. The heavy parts on this song are very slow and drawn-out; but nonetheless, they're some of the best riffs on the album. Overall, I'd say that this song is the most 'balanced' song on the album, as far as juggling atmospherics and balls-crushingly heavy dirges go. 9/10
Nine is another filler track; and it's probably the lesser of the two. The lyrics aren't as interesting as Shadow, and some of the samples are a little irritating.
Origin is the album closer, and it begins with a eerie synth line floating over a minimalistic drum pattern. It continues in this way for some while, but it's quite dynamic, so it doesn't become boring throughout. The first two thirds of the song make up the longest atmospheric passage on the album, although it's far better than the one on At The End Of The Road. This leads into, as one might expect, a crushing riff around the eight minute mark, and what a riff it is. It's probably one of the simpler riffs on the album, but the way it's presented is perfect and really helps it to stand out, which is something fitting for an album closer. A weepy little violin line comes in a little ways through and perfectly accents it. The riff ends suddenly, and without warning, the album is over. Certainly a good song, but like At The End Of The Road, a challenging listen to one who isn't familiar with Neurosis's song dynamics. 8.9/10
Overall, the album is a solid contender for album of the year, and maybe even one of Neurosis's best albums. I can't wait to see this performed live.