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For those searching for a weak Neurosis record in the vain hope that they can subject it to substantial amounts of criticism, well, you had better look elsewhere. As far as Neurosis records go, whilst this doesn’t stand firmly at the top of the food chain, it is up there with the best of them, competing for the crown. Once again, Neurosis have managed to create a sublime metaphorical piece. With ‘Times Of Grace’ acting like a supposedly dormant volcano which has suddenly burst into life and begun to stir deep beneath the glowing surface to erupt into many shapes and sizes. This would be best shown in songs such as the magnificent and aptly titled ‘Under The Surface’, which underlines the image of Neurosis as a metaphorical presence due to the fact that it stirs from deep within with it‘s crushing bass and fast flowing drum beats, but is still tremendously beautiful with it‘s mesmerising leads and ambient sections on keyboards. Whilst the foreground is a spectacular haven of beautiful imagery, the background is dark and sinister with an immerging beast beginning to stalk it‘s audience as if they were an oblivious prey.
The career of this illustrious American band is littered with as many delights, such as ’A Sun That Never Sets’ and the laidback and mellow sounds of ’The Eye Of Every Storm, as a sweet shop. This is OUR drug. If the past tells us anything, it is not to expect anything. Neurosis’ journey from a standard hardcore band with punk influences has evolved into an enigmatic beast, experimenting with every passing record. ‘Time Of Grace’ is no different to the other Neurosis records, in the sense that it delivers high quantities of experimentation in almost every sense of the word. Whilst, as I said, this isn’t the definitive Neurosis record (which would be ‘A Sun The Never Sets’ in my eyes), it still deserves an equal amount of plaudits as the rest. Neurosis’ definitive positive, which will be mention time and again as long as people continue to review musical works, is the fact that no matter how much or how little the experimentation factor takes hold, Neurosis always manage to enthral audiences worldwide since the birth of their largely sludge based career.
‘Times Of Grace’ can stand up and take credit for being one of the best sinister sludge based records in the history of the genre. Many people accredit the formation of this genre to bands such as Isis and Neurosis themselves. Whilst that might be true, one can see the other influences that stream through the band like a raging river. The tribal feel. This has long since been a major positive of Neurosis’ game and ‘Times Of Grace’ once again displays this aspect of their music in full view for everyone to see. Generally speaking, the guitars are the main proprietor of this most prosperous sound. There is a distinctive feel to all of Neurosis’ works, so one cannot suggest that ’Times Of Grace’ stands out merely for it’s presence in terms of a distinctive sound because every Neurosis title has it’s own direction and it’s own methods of getting to the destination which, in this case, is to a far more aggressive spot that, lets say, ’The Eye Of Every Storm’ decided to venture to.
Of course, whilst Neurosis do manage to successfully fuse the eerily sinister nature with the tribal genius, the experimentation factor of the instrumentation never allows for Neurosis to become dull, especially on this piece with it’s use of immaculate clean guitars, keyboards and once again, outstanding vocals from the leading man behind the microphone. The sheer amount of instruments used on this piece will show how far Neurosis are willing to take the experimentation - the cello, tuba, violin, trombone and even bagpipes are including on this piece. The brilliance of the song writing has to be given a mention because, which songs like the sombre ‘Away’ will show, though there may be an abundance of instruments used on this record, they’re all used well and effectively. Due to the classically controlled production, the musicianship of the band members is gloriously and justly magnified by the clear and concise sound of the production. There are a number of bands out there, in the metal world, who try and fail miserably to incorporate a variety of instruments into their soundscapes. Neurosis, on the other hand, manage to successfully do this and in the process, create a number of varied and interesting soundscapes which are all brilliantly portrayed well due to the top notch production that Neurosis use.
Once again, Neurosis have managed to bridge the gap between using harsh and mellow music all on the same record. The essence of Neurosis seems to be to lead it’s audience into a false sense of security, and then pounce upon their unknowing mind, body and soul by claiming another scalp through mellow passages, which are conveyed through acoustics, ambience and spoken vocals and are then followed up by harsher sections, which is where the distinctive screamed vocals come into play, distortion takes hold and the percussion is let loose on it’s undeserving audience with uncompromising use of cymbals and double bass. The aggression behind the record is different to any other Neurosis record, making it fresh and instantly likeable. Lyrically, the themes are portrayed through even more angst and testosterone -
“Behind a burning red fog
the great mind swims in confusion
its blood ferments in anger
honour and wisdom will cower
Your river's flow is damned all to hell
Drifting in a current to stagnate
encircle the vision of rust
Your river's flow is damned all to hell.”
As far as negative points go, one struggles to think of any worth mentioning. The bass, can, at times lag behind the rest, but the sheer amount of distortion on the aggressive patches of play takes over the mood anyway and when slower passages are produced, the bass stands up and is counted for. Immense.