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I've been listening to Through Silver in Blood on and off for a good while now and have never gotten around to reviewing it. Strange, as this is easily one of Neurosis’ best releases and I’m here to tell you why I think this record is awesome.
Okay, so when compared to the precursor Enemy of the Sun, Through Silver in Blood is a massive step up. The production has been improved dramatically given the guitars are much thicker and more well-rounded edge. The song writing has become more immediate, with each track having a much stronger sense of urgency and purpose. This album has got a very natural feel to it despite the grimy industrial atmosphere. Songs feel organic, with each transition being a natural evolution and all of the songs coming together to form one cohesive package. Neurosis has always been good at consistency and this record shows why.
Musically, this is probably the most industrial influenced album by the band. There’s a definite Godflesh vibe running throughout, with the really thick and dismal melodies and the harshly yelled vocals. Thus this succeeds in giving the music a very heavy and abrasive edge. The pacing of the album remains slow to mid paced throughout, there are no sudden eruptions of frantic energy but rather the music succeeds in being thick, dense and dirge like in its hostile slowness. The guitars never play anything outwardly melodic but are instead used primarily for texture. The driving bass and militaristic, tribal drum patterns serve as solid backdrops to the endless wash of droning guitars and anguished vocals. It’s a great mix and one Neurosis pulls off like no other.
If you've heard later Neurosis albums then you may be shocked by what is on display here. There’s no folk influences, no post rock, but rather pure industrial tinged sludge metal. It’s rather simple and minimalistic as a whole, this is not pretty music, this is music created for the sole purpose of expressing the pure misery of existence. The influence of ambient is pretty clear through the long nature of the songs, with variation coming through only in subtle changes in playing style. Variation is something Neurosis has never strived for within the course of one album and they don’t need to. The band has created a winning formula through the use of extremely heavy riffs, tribal drumming and subtle electronics.
Similar to all Neurosis albums this is deep music that requires a lot of patience and an open mind to firmly adjust to. The band doesn't function on pop based hooks, but rather the creation of atmosphere through bludgeoning riffs. This is an album that needs to be experienced as a whole rather than listened to with a passive interest. The highly repetitious and abrasive nature of this album may be too much for most listeners, but I find a lot to enjoy in the stark representation of an industrial landscape. As strange as this might sound I’d say it’s probably the easiest, most accessible Neurosis album to listen to. Really, what’s harder to listen to, the bludgeoning riffs and unforgiving atmosphere of Through Silver in Blood or the lethargic rumbling of the bands later works? In fact, it’s probably a good album to start off with along with Given to the Rising, it perfectly embodies the sound of Neurosis but with a more determined sense of song writing. This is mandatory.
When I was first introduced to Neurosis by way of a sampler in 1995, my taste was centered around Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Death, Slayer, etc. and so my ears were in no way ready for what turned out to be a truly unique sound that so far only Neurosis has really mastered. "Through Silver In Blood" is an angry release that has combustible energy but is presented in a format that sets it apart from any other release that may have at their core that same sense of anger. Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till's screams coupled with Dave Edwardson's growls are again (forgive me for belaboring the term) a truly unique sound but on this release (especially tracks such as "Through Silver In Blood" and "Locust Star") they carry with them this very intense primal fury that conveys more aggression than many half-hearted death growls I have heard in my time.
Not unlike Opeth (how's that for an odd comparison? But stay with me) Neurosis is a band with which you need to be open minded and often patient and this is evidenced in several places on this album. The first full 2 minutes of the album is built upon this tribal like drum pattern that is surrounded by short previews of the upcoming guitar work and ambient soundscapes. An interesting thing to note is that after the full band kicks in - vocals and all - the drumming pattern while different than the opening rhythms is still using exclusively drums (no cymbals) save for a crash here or there. It is not until the 5:30 mark in that track that we even hear the hi-hat being used. While that may seem to be a small detail just browse through your collection - listen to how rarely you hear any drummer lay off the cymbals and focus on just the drums for an extended time (let alone over five minutes). The ending of the first track is another harbinger of things to expect on the album. There is a droning repetitive section that feels and sounds far more like some incantation than a verse. I know how boring it must seem to say they play the same two chords with a constant tribal drumming pattern and the same lyrics repeated over and over for over four minutes (!) but somehow it works - it just puts you into a trance. When Neurosis gets repetitive (or as some may view, self-indulgent), it seems somehow pure and transcendental.
That really brings me to the impression I got of the entire album. Songs like the title track and "Eye" drive with a steady aggression while songs like "Locust Star" have this intense melancholy couched in them and then there are songs that challenge the listener like the album closer "Enclosure in Flame". Among these tracks are these momentary diversions ("Rehumanize" and "Become the Ocean") comprised of ambient noise/soundscapes and manipulated samples that help propel the album to this other plane. This isn't some typical metal album about hell or death or torture or anything so commonplace or banal. I can't even begin to suggest what the unifying idea is behind the album. The lyrics, the motives, the samples, the feel overall make this a completely subjective experience - you will take from this album what you want to take from it.
The one thing I would think any fan of this band would tell you is that Neurosis operates on a different level than most. They aren't shredders with killer leads. They don't grind. They don't have headbanging breakdowns, familiar choruses, or a main theme. You can hear it in the music especially on this release, they really want to convey something and stimulate the mind not just get your head moving. They want to get your head thinking. "Through Silver In Blood" is one of those albums you need to experience not listen to. Start the album from the beginning and listen straight through, lay on your bed with the lights off, and let the music take you somewhere else.
Imagine living through a nuclear catastrophe. All that was around you now lies in ruins. Imagine moving amidst the devastation, alone, a wandering nomad roaming the bleak landscape. There is nothing but you and your slowly deteriorating sanity. That's what Through Silver In Blood is like.
Each song moves like a morose chapter, exploring all of the horrible possibilities that one may experience in the above scenario. Cycles of crushing hopelessness, terror, depression, and even a smidgen of joy in the forms of songs, all flowing meticulously, creating an immersive, gripping, and most enjoyable experience.
The album opens with the crushing title track, a representation of the fall of everything followed by an analysis of sorts with "Rehumanize". Then the track "Eye" shows the album starting to move, seeming like it is literally traversing this post-apocalyptic world, unsure of what one may encounter, with an eerie feeling of being watched. And then a gleam of some empty, but wonderous hope in the form of "Purify", wherein it seems that one is not alone after all, followed by "Locust Star", the terrible realization that the world once held dear is dead; all that was once loved has taken the form of vast wastes of utter ruin, and that nothing can ever repair it. The next track, "Strength of Fates", if when one's sanity slowly starts slipping away. Contemplations of suicide and gnawing thoughts of hopelessness and bluedgeoning despair take hold and slowly erode the individual. Despite making contact with other survivors, one trudges on with burdensome despair, empty and exhausted. "Become the Ocean" tries to make sense of all that happens and suggests to surrender to death. "Aeon" is the indivdual standing on the edge, looking in the gaping mouth of the only possible solution, weighing the options and consequences. The decision is made. One takes that final step into oblivion, ending this terrible story on a desparagingly bleak note on the final monster "Enclosure In Flame".
The atmopshere of the whole album is dense, crushing, and unforgiving, enhanced with layers of subtle, haunting electronics. The guitars serve mainly as textures, focusing more on adding atmosphere than riffing, but still impressive in the way they are written and played, with the heavily distorted bass driving much of the music. The drums drive the music the way it should be, sometimes with surging tribal drumming and other times with a more traditional, but no more less skillful, style. And, to top it all off, is the extraordinary vocal performance - Scott Kelly's angsty, melancholy screams and soft, bleak style of singing; Steve Von Till's supportive screams and backing vocals; and Dave Edwardson's sinister growls and bellows.
All in all, Through Silver In Blood offers up quite possibly the most unique and well crafted musical experience. Very few bands can hold a light to Neurosis's unmatched skill, let alone this relentless beheomth of an album. Although most are usually reluctant to label an album as being the best (or one of the best at the least) albums of all time, it is safe to say that this could very well be that album. The album is virtually flawless and will most likely remain unrivaled as being the best for years to come, even by the band that produced it. Listening to this album should be mandatory!
Often known for experimentation, Neurosis have sifted through the realms of metal and ended up at a crossover. When, for most, the road is blocked, Neurosis merely skip by it and create something that puts most other bands to shame. Experimentation has always been in their nature and I daresay it always will be. Throughout the career of the band, which has spanned many years, Neurosis have been tagged everything from doom to post-hardcore, from progressive to sludge. Truth of the matter is, no one can really define Neurosis. Their sound eludes every genre you could even attempt to pin it down to. Their sound expands and escapes the supposed inescapable territories of metal. Whilst the majority considers most genres and sub-genres within metal to have a particular sound, or certain characteristics that each and every band within it’s grasp adheres to, Neurosis seem to forget that and create something that can only stand on it’s own. Neurosis are, in truth, a mixture of things. An enigma, if you will. In fact, one could state, even from the beginning when they were mostly considered a hardcore punk band, that Neurosis were any one particular genre. Where there have been boundaries, the Californian based act have broken them down. Where there have been obstacles, the Californian based act have destroyed whatever it is that lays in their path. It is hard to believe, but ‘Through Silver In Blood’ is the fifth full-length in Neurosis’ career. It is, by many, considered to be the pinnacle achievement and the most outstanding work within the metal genre. Whilst this may seem like a deliberate exaggeration on my part, to those familiar with Neurosis and the inner circles of metal, that probably doesn’t seem that far-fetched a statement. Although most Neurosis records seem to breach the one hour mark, ‘Through Silver In Blood’ is truly an epic journey. Perhaps this sounds clichéd, but it is the only description one can give for such a mammoth record.
In regards to previous efforts, ‘Through Silver In Blood’ represents the first time in the North American bands career that all elements of their experimental nature came together in perfect harmony. Whilst I, personally, consider ‘A Sun That Never Sets’ to be their defining effort, this is the pinnacle, as I previously stated, to the majority of people around the world. It consists of the best elements that Neurosis have shifted together in one recording. Take songs like ‘Locust Star’ for example. This song exudes confidence. The band were in their prime at this particular moment in time. This song begins with mesmerising drums, which continue throughout the record, not just the song and an ambience that Neurosis have long since devoured and spat out. In terms of the atmospheric nature of this record, it’s a lot more punishing that previous efforts and more recent records. In comparison to something like ‘The Eye Of Every Storm’ which was more subtle in it’s approach, this record is blunt, brash and exposed. It allows the audience to see the true talents that are behind the instruments. ‘Locust Star’ was actually the very first Neurosis song I had ever heard. I remember the first time I heard it, sitting quietly, stunned and motionless, the song caused me to alter my mood and reflect upon everything under the sun. The odd thing about this Neurosis treat is that, personally, I consider this to be the bleakest Neurosis effort because of it’s dark and dismal soundscapes that surround the bare bones of the album.
For instance, I point out ‘Locust Star’ again, the influence of the bass on the record is superb. I love it when bands utilize the bass for all it’s worth and Neurosis do this on their fifth effort. The bass is constant and creative. It knows when to take center stage, when to back off and it’s concise and precise nature is everything that the bass section needs in order to be successful. There are times when bass will take the band in the direction it wants to go and will enhance the dark atmospheres that this record revolves around. Being such talented song writing and musicians allows Neurosis, as always, to incorporate other elements into their music. For example, piano sections, played in low notes that further develop the dark styling of the sound. Tribal influences have long since been a factor in Neurosis’ music and ‘Through Silver In Blood’ is no different. Synthesizers utilize the tribal sound well. Creating an abundance of rhythmic space like sounds that swirl and twirl around the guitars, the bass and even the steady percussion section. Vocally, Neurosis are the same as they always are. Scott Kelly has a distinctive voice and is able to carry the sound that the band portrays very well. His voice is rather gruff, so it’s dark and low sound flows alongside the superb melodies very well and creates a melody of it’s own. Vocals don’t have to be great, they just have to be suitable to the music. My main problem with this Neurosis effort, well, my only problem is the lyrics. In the past, I have enjoyed reading and listening to the lyrics being spouted out by Scott Kelly at the helm, but the lyrics present on this effort seem a shade poor in comparison to other efforts like ‘A Sun That Never Sets’ or ‘The Eye Of Every Storm’. For example, the lyrics to the title track, whilst they could be considered appealing to the senses as they deal with very human emotions and use words that humans can relate to, they don’t really have the same affect as other Neurosis lyrics have had.
“Through silver in blood
We stand judged not by
Eyes of flesh, when
Transit times cross
Prey vision consumed
Although, especially lyrically, this may not be my favourite Neurosis full-length, one cannot doubt the sheer intensity or power of it. It has stood the test of time and only continues to enhance the reputation of this already much loved band. Classic, in many people’s eyes.
Ever watch a film that showcases destruction on a massive scale and follows it up with scenes of weeping agony and retrospective? Say, a nuclear detonation with a mushroom cloud that slowly reaches for the heavens and the post-apocalyptic lifestyle that ensues? Or a meteor impact which produces a shockwave that slowly creeps out across the landscape and the consequent images of wrecked countryside? Maybe even a fire that sweeps across an expansive forest and the miles of charred earth that result? Perhaps a war that takes a catastrophic toll on two nations?
Well, on this here slab of post-hardcore sludge metal, Neurosis paint evolving pictures of gradual devastation that would easily go hand in hand with such events.
Right from the introductory seconds of the album - which feature odd industrial sounds, tribal drums, and a menacing guitar progression that ripples with volume and distortion - you sort of get that feeling you'd get if you were to wake up in the morning, walk out into your front lawn, look up into the distance, and watch in horrified disbelief as the sky itself cowers under an encroaching shadow that is slowly spreading across the atmosphere. Before you can figure out what the hell is going on, your ears are shattered by a desperate roar - "THROUGH SILVER IN BLOOOOOOOD!!!" - marking the transition from a purely suggestive sense of dread to something far more immediate. Guitars swell, still subdued as they crawl along, gathering strength much like a tornado that sweeps across the countryside, gradually becoming bigger and stronger; the bass, slightly distorted, shakes the very ground you stand on; the drums continue to pound out relentless tribal rhythms; Scott Kelly's pained yells fill your head, backed by the guttural intonations of Steve Von Till. Soon, the storm reaches its peak. The earth begins to split before you, the bleak sky begins to rain fire, and the skyline in the distance slowly begins to crumble to the ground. With several bowel-shaking bass slides, the same guitar riff that was but a shadow in the corner of your mind six minutes earlier explodes into a roaring, indiscriminate wall of sludgy ruin. The drums transform from a hypnotic pulsing to a creeping, pounding onslaught reminiscent of a wrecking ball methodically crushing its victims into dust. The next thing you know, you're on the ground. Your vision is blurred, your head throbbing. Sitting yourself upright, you look off into the distance. The storm is slowly retreating, and you are finally made aware of the utter desolation around you. The tallest buildings have been laid flat across the now barren landscape, the oceans themselves have been set aflame, and ash falls from a sky that sunlight no longer seems to touch. As the drums resume their primal throbbing and the guitars send shockwaves of undulating distortion across the diminishing soundscape, you notice other people around you. They are cold, empty... mothers clutch their children as their lost eyes sweep over a homeland that has been turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland in the course of twelve minutes. As a final show of power, the music briefly reverts to the opening motif of rolling tribal rhythms punctuated by industrial noise before finally dropping out for good.
...and that was only the first song.
"Rehumanize" is a brief, slightly disturbing, yet oddly compelling track that contains twisted samples of various people talking about subject matter that is spiritual and strangely chaotic on top of a cerebral collage of mechanical sound. "Purify" is an immense moment of music that moves from a melancholy arrangement of gently ringing guitars and orchestral elements throughout the introduction, to a lengthy evolution of sheer intensity wrapped in trademark tom-heavy drumming and slithering, sludgy guitars... and on to the striking closing sequence that features rolling drum patterns and atmospheric bursts of distortion placed against uplifting and highly melodious bagpipes. Yes, bagpipes. "Aeon" starts with gentle pianos and subtle snare rolls in its first half, only to ascend into a monolithic scene of uncompromising tragedy in a second half that's as powerful and emotionally moving as it is destructive and militaristic. The remainder of the album shares a similar sense of crushing intensity and swirling dynamics.
Through Silver in Blood is immense. It is an absolutely triumphant soundtrack to the apocalypse and the subsequent rebirth of the world anew.
Listen and be swept away.
I'll say this plain and simple: Neurosis is the Pink Floyd of metal - and of our generation as a whole. They are completely unwavering in their experimentation; take a look at Pain of Mind, and compare it to, oh, A Sun That Never Sets. You would think of them as works of two completely different bands, and for all intents and purposes, they are. Neurosis is no longer the hardcore/crust/crossover thrash band it used to be in the 1980s/early 1990s. I have seen them bunched into just about every genre, falling under such extremes as indie rock and progressive death metal. And yet they are completely indefinable - one of their best traits. They are able to seamlessly blend together every type of music into a chaotic, melodic, crushing, and heart-stopping mixture that can confuse and startle even the most seasoned metalheads. Neurosis's style has been described before as a "wall of sound," an acutely accurate description. Forget your brutal death metal and grindcore; these guys are the heaviest and loudest stuff around.
Neurosis has really shifted in their sound recently; The Eye of Every Storm is far less punishing than their earlier works when they began really experimenting with metal. It was around this time, beginning with the release of Enemy of the Sun, that Neurosis began to make music that would push the boundaries of heaviness. Like, holy fucking jumping Jesus, is this album heavy. This is the kind of music that not only knocks your socks off - your feet come off in the process, as well. Through Silver in Blood is arguably their best work; it takes everything that was great about Enemy of the Sun, and knocks it up ten or so more notches. Like all of their better work, the album is completely unpredictable. The first twenty minutes, your ears are shredded by the colossal “Through Silver in Blood” and “Eye.” Then things seem to tone down into mellow, almost Floyd-ish territory for “Purify”… and then the rug is pulled out from under you yet again. Like all of Neurosis’s albums, Through Silver in Blood is long as fuck. Yet even at 70 minutes, the album neither drags nor bores. These are guys who truly, passionately care about their music – “real” musicians, if you will. Many of the songs exceed ten minutes, and yet they always leave you wanting them to be ten minutes longer. If my message has somehow been lost, I’ll be very clear: This is an incredible album.
As much praise as I could pour out for these guys would never be able to do them anywhere close to enough justice. Nor could I possibly (or properly) encompass the vast range of emotions captured in this musical offering. All I can say is this: After you finish this review, get up, grab your coat, keys, and wallet and go buy this album.
I've often found it strange about the lengths people go to praise Neurosis. The two albums I previously had, A Sun That Never Sets and The Eye of Every Storm are both amazing albums, but other bands have improved on those two cds'. But then I bought this cd, and it's an absolute monster. It's an exhausting, exhiliarating, mind-altering epic. It sounds primal and ancient. You get the feeling that Neurosis didn't actually write this album, rather, that they're all a bunch of mediums who channelled god, or satan, or quite possibly both, and got them to write an album for them.
I probably should stop raving about this CD and describe the music. The music is progressive doom metal with a big dose of ambience. The title track is probably the best point of reference. It's a dark, oppressive 12 minute monster, with frantic tribal drumming, brilliant and disturbing noise, and pounding, primal guitars. The guitars don't do a whole lot of different riffs, but they never get repetitive or boring. The anxious screams of the two singers, the brilliant rythym section and the crushing guitars add up to an experience that could best be described as overwhelming. Still, it's not all crushing tribal doom. Purify has a great mellow introduction that slowly builds up to massive riffs from hell. Aeon, maybe the best track here, has a beautiful piano, which continues it's slow melody while strings and drums slowly build up. Heavy guitars come and go, before a massive, despairing riff kicks in, and then the song slowly fades away into another melancholy strings and piano piece. The interludes are good too, particularly Rehumanize. It's a thought provoking spoken word passage, with some disturbing and awesome noise bits added.
Everything is perfectly in its place in this album. The guitars are chunky, a little bit muddy, but they are always playing the perfect thing. The Neurosis rythym section is very dynamic, and never sounds out of place. The only rythym section that even comes close would be the Isis one. The bass is content to fill the bottom end in, never really standing out, but the drumming really adds to this album, with the tribal, tom-heavy beats making each song better. The singers dont have the heaviest scream ever, but the commitment to their art is undeniable. The lyrics are all very well written, fairly opaque and abstract. I'm sure I could spend a lot of time trying to understand these lyrics, but with this kind of music, proper understanding is impossible. You're not really meant to completely understand this music; you're meant to surrender to it's awe inspiring power. And that's maybe a good line to end this review on.