The release of Neurosis’ 11th album coincides with the band’s 30th anniversary. There’s not many bands that make it that far, and there are even fewer that continue to produce music that is forward thinking, vibrant and fresh. When thinking of Neurosis, the idea of cycles springs to mind. Their early hardcore beginnings, the post-metal and sludge phases, this is a band constantly reinventing.
Neurosis marks 30 years with Fires Within Fires, their 11th album. It's uncharacteristically economical, clocking in at a mere 40 minutes, their shortest since 1992's Souls at Zero. Engineered by Steve Albini (their sixth collaboration in a row), it takes stock of the places Neurosis has been since leaving behind their post-hardcore roots to pioneer the strange world of "post-metal." Opener "Bending Light" commences with a slow, doomy bassline and a guitar vamp that directly references Pink Floyd's "Nile Song" -- specifically the Necros' mid-'80s cover -- but uncouples itself to wander more jagged atmospheric terrain with sparse, bluesy guitar lines and darkly hued sonic effects from keyboardist Noah Landis.
Review Summary: A meditation, a struggleNeurosis have developed an impressive sense of duality throughout their initial decade of existence. Crushing metal riffs would suddenly give way to ambient soundscapes, adding new dimensions to their sound as the years went on. Massively influential to countless younger groups as a result, many took their own musical directions and paths.
Ambition has long been Neurosis’ hallmark. When the Bay Area band, which started out playing crust-caked hardcore in the ’80s, turned toward longer songs and stranger textures on 1990’s The Word As Law, there was no blueprint to follow. Instead, they spent the next decade forging one barrier-obliterating album after the next. By 1999’s Time of Grace—released with an ambient companion album by Neurosis’ alter ego, Tribes of Neurot, which was meant to be played on top of Times of Grace—the group had morphed into an entity of ritualism, dark spectacle, and metaphysical sprawl.
Neurosis are a three-decade staple of thinking (wo)man's music, a band who inspire emotional hyperbole, who are both crushing and fragile, thematically and visually rich and constantly expanding their sonic palette. On their 11th studio album, Fires Within Fires, you'll find little that strays from the realms they visited on their previous material — particularly their 2000s-onwards output — but that's in no way detrimental to the album. As per usual, Neurosis subtly and skilfully integrate elements from the post-metal genre they co-created, while continuing weave in elements of industrial, doom, punk and folk.
Think of some bands that have been around for 30 years. Now narrow that list down to those that are still any good. In this light—and so many others—Neurosis is exceptional. From its undeniable influence upon post-metal, to the band’s founding of a record label that’s time and again changed the musical landscape, Neurosis has one of the most profound legacies in music.
To begin by confirming that the eleventh studio album by Neurosis is another Neurosis record which sounds like Neurosis could be a case of Reviewer’s Folly. Do you even need to read any more after that? Already, I might be bloviating to an empty room as the readership rush off with the intention of either snagging Fires Within Fires by whichever means, or giving this latest stone-faced opus of manly anger a wide berth. There is, though, the possibility of people reading who have never actually heard Neurosis, but were interested enough to click idly.