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Have I finally gotten sick of Neurosis, or is this album just really sucky? Was it an emperor new clothes thing all along, whereby Neurosis hid very boring musical content under monolithic production and crushing density? Certainly, this album brings up a lot of troubling questions. This is Neurosis by numbers and simply put it's a real patience tester. All the usual tropes are here but it's done in a way that first up, has you very bored with the content here, and second, has you questioning just why you enjoyed these guys in the first place.
When you think about, how where the tropes enjoyable in the first place? Sure, Neurosis weren't the first band to possess almost a unique sense of anti-melody (hi Celtic Frost), but at least Celtic Frost had some pace to it. Listening to the profoundly boring un-riff that flows through much of My Heart For Deliverance- this stuff has been done twenty or thirty times before throughout their back catalogue, and it's been as underwhelming each time. You know the riff- a few different chords, none of which really fit together well or are arranged in an interesting manner, but they get repeated a huge amount because that makes it legitimate (??). Perhaps this is just the moment where the production hasn't been gloriously huge enough to cover it up, regardless this song sucks and perhaps in hindsight that riff in The Doorway wasn't all that much chop either. Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens a fair bit. The riffs throughout (when not mixing up with the done-exactly-the-same-way-for-twelve-years clean parts that could be ripped straight off A Sun that Never Sets) are fucking boring; good luck listening to Casting of the Ages without falling asleep!
Even the lyrics have me burnt out. I had to giggle a bit when Von Till and Kelly earnestly yell "Blood makes no excuse!" in the At the Well (over another one of those riffs, even). Perhaps give the following a look as they're a good enough example of why Neurosis do, perhaps, suck a bit (this is off We All Rage in Gold):
The sky it holds my father, the sun recalls my soul.
The reasons forgotten, of lessons learned in oak,
My always wanting watchers, they laugh and slash at my mind.
The deafening redeemer, lays me down and feeds me time,
Now this looks somewhat deep and meaningful, until a quick look reveals that a) this really doesn't make any sense and b) anyone could come up with shit that sounds EXACTLY THE SAME. Check my stream-of-consciousness Neurosis lyrics:
My blood it cries for justice as my skin is scraped over bones
The dirt it demands payment, from they whom will never leave
Something about seasons ruining the haggard
Metaphor about dwarf male-male sex, etc.
Essentially, this is bad lyrics yelled over riffs that have a nice tone but are otherwise fucken boring, with the final kicker being that the songs are really long! Yes, there are some clean parts, some of which are somewhat pretty (Heart of Deliverance's awful riffs are almost redeemed by the rather gorgeous comedown in the middle of the song), but the occaisonal tasty clean part does not save this album, not by a long shot.
I guess the final question, then, is- is all Neurosis this bad to me now, or is it just this album? I certainly had a grand time seeing them live a few years ago so hoping it's latter. This all said and done, I highly recommend avoiding this album, as it's piss weak and all but guaranteed to throw you into a serious crisis of faith.
Neurosis lost me a bit here. They've released some of the finest albums I've ever heard, and many more that are mystifying offerings of deeply unique and enchanting pieces of whatever it is Neurosis does. It took some time (five years) for "Honor Found in Decay" to emerge from the mental collapse of a womb which hosts Neurosis' altar after they heaved another missile of fantastic material on 2007's "Given to the Rising." Neurosis appears to be effectively lost between the multitudes of musical vortexes they've exploited and sapped for several years at this point, not necessarily venturing into territory too weird for even Neurosis, but cutting holes into their own postulate and flooding fertile ground with songs that are almost directionless and even remarkably stale.
"Honor Found in Decay" sounds like an atypical album from Neurosis, so paradoxically it sounds like Neurosis. Fragments of metal, hardcore, sludge, ambient, progressive, and tribal elements bolster the machine which has bound this excellent band together, all entwined in a cohesively natural sound, like beams of some dark, sprawling nexus connecting parallel worlds across untold dimensions. "Honor Found in Decay" has these colors and more as expected (or unexpected) but adding on, however, a subtle decline in heavier themes, making the album showcase an introspective, rise-from-the-ashes mentality. The scope of songs weaves through extremely pulverizing heavy parts and somber, meditative sections which together balance out the Neurosis equation excellently at times. Consequently, the vocals strike me as the weakest part of the album, as the yelps and whelps tend to add little or sound misplaced.
I suppose "Honor Found in Decay" isn't poor or running on a low wave, but it certainly fails to keep its own energy sustained. The album's beginning numbers are all fantastic (minus my little gripe with the vocals). "At the Well" and "My Heart For Deliverance" both nail the trademark idea of Neurosis, together displaying multitudes of complex, abstract sections that sing songs of atonal, distant memories and feature substantial amounts of fire and calm; they definitely bring the whole sludge and progressive themes to mind. Noah Landis has a remarkable presence during "Honor Found in Decay" as the band's keyboardist, and he does a sensational job manipulating his surroundings with samples, keyboard effects, added atmosphere, the whole shebang.
"Bleeding the Pigs," although a bit of a decline, conjures enough imagination and persistence to make it another keeper. However, the last two tracks, "All is Found...in Time" and "Raise the Dawn" do very little for me. The dreary, introspective nature of "Honor Found in Decay" begins to unravel a bit by the time "All is Found...in Time" rolls around, because the song simply retraces a geometrical measure that we've seen before; it brings nothing new to an ever-evolving project. Same goes for "Raise the Dawn." To clarify, both tunes are choppy and insipid compared to the opening cards which set a demanding tone, but ultimately this standard is not met during these final numbers, very uncommon for the monolithic Neurosis.
"Honor Found in Decay" is an acceptable record, even fantastic at times, yet its unearthed capability remains entombed. Granted, they still appear as an ancient and perplexing idol spewing fathomless storms over a barren earth, but the divine powers occasionally come out a trifle rusty and aged. It's actually quite relieving to think Neurosis released an album as such, one that wasn't rushed or a cop-out, but authentic at its roots: "Honor Found in Decay" still has the chameleonic eyes of Neurosis. A legitimate release for the Neurosis veterans abroad, yet worlds away from legendary efforts like "Through Silver in Blood" and "Souls at Zero."
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Neurosis is a band that is known for balance. Ever since 1992’s Souls at Zero, the Oakland legends have constantly found new ways to integrate acoustic, ambient and avant-garde elements into their ultra-heavy brand of sludge metal. Even 2001’s A Sun that Never Sets, which injects a heavy dose of folk and blues elements into the mix, still manages to achieve a beautiful harmony between soft and heavy, dark and light.
More recently, Neurosis has struggled to simultaneously maintain its identity and continue to innovate. 2004’s The Eye of Every Storm left the metallic dimension at the fringes of the compositions; the result was a Neurosis album in name, but not in sound. The group seemed to recognize they had strayed too far and in 2007 released Given to the Rising, their darkest, heaviest and most emotionally demanding album since 1996’s Through Silver in Blood. However, Given to the Rising is perhaps a little too retro; though it is a riveting album, it lacks the experimental spirit that typifies Neurosis.
Neurosis’s latest offering, Honor Found in Decay regains equilibrium, providing a number of new sounds while preserving the group’s core features: dense riffs, tribal drum patterns, doomy tempos and Steve von Till’s blending of bluesy croons and grizzly roars. Though the primary sounds are similar to those found on other Neurosis albums, they are employed to create a slightly different mood. For the most part, Honor Found in Decay displays a more introspective and less ferocious side of Neurosis. The primary theme of the lyrics is the challenge one faces when trying to let go of his or her past. The songs are littered with images of cleansing, departing and releasing.
Harsher, more violent riffs are employed to depict the burden that is being extricated. For example, “My Heart for Deliverance” starts with riffs that rumble like biblical thunderstorms; yet, their force feels like a distant memory that is still tangible but fading. Von Till sings of “a life spent in broken arms” and yearns for deliverance from his origin. In the second half of the song, he seems to receive that freedom. The music becomes brighter, achieving a gentle catharsis, spearheaded by soaring, rustic string samples. “Bleeding the Pigs” opens and closes with the type of slow, crushing passage that characterized Enemy of the Sun and Through Silver in Blood. However, even here, von Till’s lyrics speak of a cleansing oneself from the past. “Scrape the black tar from your past life,” commands von Till as the song enters its most severe passage.
Keyboardist Noah Landis is in especially strong form throughout the album. Listeners will have a hard time convincing themselves that there are not actual violins, violas and accordions on the album, but apparently all those sounds are the product of Landis’s keyboards. His organ on “Casting of the Ages” is the driving force that makes the song such an epic, toilsome journey. His splattering of eerie beeps and buzzes throughout the album’s quieter passages keeps the audience anticipating the metallic roar that inevitably lays a few bars away.
While the aforementioned tracks display the sort of compositional brilliance that has come to be expected of Neurosis, other songs are surprisingly unfocused. “All is Found… in Time” wanders from one trope to another before ending somewhat randomly. The lethargic and monotonous “Raise the Dawn” breaks the band’s long-standing tradition of ending albums on a high note (though the passage of Asiatic violin and acoustic guitar that close the song is exquisite).
While it’s nice that Neurosis did not simply retread its old footsteps this time out, it’s disappointing that the quality of the compositions is so inconsistent. Most Neurosis albums are powerful journeys that keep the listener hooked form track one to the grand finale; fair or not, Honor Found in Decay fails to live up to that high standard. There is certainly enough quality material on here that fans should not overlook it, but after a five year wait, it would be fair to call Honor Found in Decay a minor disappointment.
Originally written for ourvinyl.com