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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
Pain doused their fingertips as years of weary work lingered ever-bearing overhead, the strain in their struggle of the development of an art over the years, in which all matter of time, being, blood, sweat, tears, pain and ire swells into extroverted currencies of a life’s desire to create. What is it to make something truly beyond to ability to hold, be it physically or mentally? Nobody can understand how the opus functions on the level of the sculptor, and that is what makes the gift of interpretation such a beautiful thing. Beyond the absurd reckonings of my efforts to describe this idea, comes the Honor Found In Decay. Neurosis is a band that holds lo, above all others. Not in the means of shallow pretentiousness or a false given sense of superiority, but because the group destroys the hidden generalisations of practicality when it comes to its art. Deep and dense and dark and intense, Neurosis bring forth a formula that no other could pull off, even if they wanted to. A band that truly sets itself away from all others, even after pioneering a genre in which no other band has come close to emulating. Be it out of respect or inability, Neurosis is a beast that can’t be tackled; as lightly as the genre is plagued with bands following the ISIS technique, post-metal isn’t that simple at its most tribal state.
Comparing Honor Found In Decay to previous Neurosis albums is a fruitless effort, the band is always shifting styles and presentation and it is impossible to tell where it might go next. The lighter, more ambient nuances explored on albums like A Sun That Never Sets and The Eye of Every Storm were almost completely sifted away with the monolith that was (and is) Given to the Rising. Here, it seems, Neurosis have come to the terms and realisation of the balance in which they have been searching the past years: the combination of sheer heaviness, the ability in which the music feels as though it’s a great weight upon your shoulders, mixed gently with peaceful ambiance of melody. Honor Found In Decay is the band’s full bodied concentration of a career’s work. A flurry of passion, the foundation of everything that has come to pass and of that which is still to come. And though this is the shortest Neurosis album since the sophomore effort The Word As Law, this album holds the weight of all its predecessors.
While the band doesn’t seem to be treading any new ground, per se, they’re not re-treading old footsteps, but rather expanding upon them and the impact of previous works. Honor Found In Decay can best be described as the amalgam of the band’s back catalogue spanning from Souls At Zero through to Given to the Rising. Taken back into experimentation with multiple instruments, the album bears welcome to short lived dosages of synthesisers, organs, piano, violin and even bagpipes, which chillingly bloom about midway into ‘At the Well’ and ‘My Heart For Deliverance’. In amongst the macabre happenings of tight and dense sludge jams come the shining lights of acoustic guitar meanderings or solemn riffs that give way to a crushing breakdown of the thickness and ambient passages that hold the listener enraptured. It is in one of these moments that the band makes use of effective sampling on ‘My Heart For Deliverance,’ a single female voice speaking against the effect of soft guitar melodies and minor voice of a few piano keys.
Vocally, Scott and Steve both perform excellently, as is to be expected. The low, guttural stretch of their year-upon-year-laden throats hangs ever more presently as you can almost feel your own vocal chords tearing at the idea of sounding so dry, pained and strained. Holding two of the most unique voices in metal, and two of the most disturbing, spine tingling voices that do nothing but render a listener speechless. The lyrics pieced with the vocal presentation are truly something worth mentioning, the darkness and obscure matter in which they are handled work wonders in capturing the essence of the music.
“Carve out my eyes that I might see treacherous thoughts unfold. In time men show their nature, bleed the pig of its life.”
As it is with exploring one’s sound as it has developed over the years, the tribal nature of Neurosis found on an album like Enemy of the Sun has made its way back with the song ‘Bleeding the Pigs,’ albeit much less ‘intense’ compared to previous dealings. There’s the thick droning as the song builds, the tribal drumming and pounding beats as guitars ring and Scott and Steve sing softly as the composition builds its momentum, all before slowing down and crashing like a massive, unadulterated overbearing tidal wave of harsh riffs and percussion. Once again, this isn’t the band saying, “What have we done before that we can do again?” it’s more so, “What have we done before that we can expand upon?”
This similar idea of going deep into the band’s past becomes once more evident on ‘All Is Found...In Time,’ in which the sound is still tribal, harsh and heavy, but much more akin to something like ‘To Crawl Under One’s Skin’ from Souls At Zero, with the blaring and fast opening of the track and the potent ending with distant screaming. As it all folds into place, closing the album on a lighter note, ‘Raise the Dawn’ is the final release of what the band has to offer, both vocalists once again exhausting themselves into the microphone and letting the music plod along ominously in a raw, sludgy fashion. As it all begins to fade, the violins come in to carry us away in a soothing quietus after the storm.
As I said earlier, comparing this to the band’s previous work is a fruitless effort, despite my work here going through a few of the little similarities, influence and inspiration that can be distinguished through the band’s previous records. There’s so much on this record that soaks up the massive impact of all that has come before, whether it be harsher sounds explored from earlier days on Through Silver In Blood, or the ambient tendencies explored through albums like The Eye of Every Storm, Neurosis has truly come together to produce one of the biggest albums in its ten album legacy, binding all the best of what has been and expanding on all fronts. Speculating where Neurosis could possibly go next is futile, seeing as the band has never been an obvious one.
It’s not every day a band can connect so differently and vastly with its audience as consistently as Neurosis does (and has). It’s in the ability of the artist to distribute their sole being as a delectable format, and this group of craftsmen know what they’re doing and how to do it, which is a rare feat in modern times filled with the mediocrity of many artists who convolute their contribution almost to the point of inaccessibility. Whilst Neurosis remains inaccessible to most, it is not a fault of the band, but a fault of patience. To avoid repeating myself many more times, it is my belief that any fan of the band, new or old, is sure to find something to love about this album. To those who weren’t impressed by the band’s majesty and unique approach to music, you will still find yourself wanting. In its masterful combination of styles and sounds, Honor Found In Decay is truly a giant to behold.
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