Release Date: Oct 30, 2012
Record label: Neurot
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal
One of the more compelling storyline threads running through the music released in 2012 has been the re-assertion of power by long-established artists. Sure, the year has also seen fantastic next steps from other corners of the indie world, from bands that are proving to be career acts, to those who may have appeared on some “artists to watch” lists making good on their early potential. But take a moment to consider the 2012 albums from blazers such as Converge, Swans, and now Neurosis.
When Kenneth Thomas, director of Blood, Sweat & Vinyl: DIY in the 21st Century, explains how he started listening to bands like Neurosis, he characterizes his discovery of extreme music as an escalation of habit. In these times of infinite musical accessibility, it’s interesting and perhaps brave to admit that music can still be about habit and instinct as much as choice. Thomas says he instantly took to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, because he found them to be “emotionally engrossing.” This kind of unquestioning devotion to the intensity or “affect” of music at first seems a little suspect.
Neurosis is one of the most significant bands in heavy metal, as crucial to the genre’s development and vitality as Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Venom or any other pioneering act you’d care to mention. The band formed in Oakland, California in 1985, and its early hardcore and punk communiqués were wrapped in an Amebix-like crust, but in 1992 Neurosis altered its musical course towards doom-laden horizons. The band’s third full-length from that year, Souls at Zero, set in motion a tectonic expansion of heavy metal’s boundaries, profoundly altering the genre’s topography.
While it might be all too convenient to interpret the title of 2012's Honor Found in Decay as a snide comment on the rise and fall of post-metal -- a movement that Neurosis in many ways prophesied and then outlived -- things are never that simple, obvious, or easily motivated by external forces for the legendary Oakland-based ensemble. Instead, all Neurosis appear willing to divulge about their tenth studio full-length's titular theme is that, as all things in life inevitably decay, one can only try to face the inevitable with honor -- in their case, through the language of music, naturally. So let those who hath understanding reckon the deeper meanings behind this particular song cycle, and while they're at it, why not figure out the secret behind the band's surprisingly fruitful relationship with engineer Steve Albini, which is going on five albums now.
While terms like genre-defining are thrown around a bit to easily in a great deal of music criticism, there can be no question that, from the very outset, Neurosis have created their own place in heavy music, with the relentless, immense force of a glacier carving its way across the landscape, rearranging the face of continents in the process. Honor Found In Decay is the tenth full-length studio album from Neurosis, and the fifth handled by engineer Steve Albini. Honor Found In Decay is defined by a much quieter energy than in their previous output, a type of brooding restraint that gives the album a sense of gravity and maturity.
Since emerging from the California hardcore punk scene in the mid-1980s, Neurosis have established themselves as standard-bearers for the cerebral end of the heavy music spectrum. But although the band's art-rock sensibilities and ferocious intelligence are writ large across Honor Found in Decay, it is the overwhelming physicality of their monolithic riffs that remains their most incisive musical tool. An underlying sense of disquiet and existential yearning has long thrummed at the heart of Neurosis, but even by their usual standards the grim restlessness of the opener, All Rage in Gold, packs a devastating punch.
Review Summary: "Honor Found in Decay" sees the band settle into a sweet spot, drawing influences from their vast and legendary discography to create an album worthy of the Neurosis name.Surely, at some point in their long, storied careers Neurosis have felt an intense pressure or moment of weakness. After all, it only makes sense. A band can only perform for so long at such quality before things start to get trying.
"Our legacy can only be assured if we continually burn down the past and plant seeds in the ashes," proclaims Neurosis guitarist-vocalist Steve Von Till in a trailer for the band's latest album, Honor Found in Decay. It's got a nice ring to it, but might not be the best description of the veteran Oakland group's M.O. Sure, Neurosis' work has evolved over the course of a 27-year career-- from the gritty metallic punk of 1987's Pain of Mind to the harrowing post-hardcore prog of 1993's Enemy of the Sun and on to the majestic art doom of their current phase-- but the progression has been gradual, a series of seasonal shifts rather than fiery upheavals.
Bagpipes is a new one, even for me. The way that those familiarly reedy, stoic and solemn tones fill an ambient interlude from the din of ‘At The Well’, the 10 minute plus second track of Neurosis’s ninth studio album, is oddly fitting, even if it does reek a little of ‘well guys, there is one thing we haven’t done yet…’. Then again, for an act that revere Pink Floyd as much as the Oakland based post-metal pioneers and genre stalwarts do, perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise, even if the results are a little more the Piper at the Gates of A Final Apocalyptic Dusk than The Piper At The Gates of Dawn.
On paper—as on record, in their careers and ambitions, and even as people—Neurosis and Miguel Jontel Pinmental are absolutely unlike each other. There’s been a lot of musical cross-pollination, synthesis, and general boundary blurring over the past twenty-five years or so that Neurosis have ….
Soon, Neurosis will be thirty years in the making. They may celebrate this coming of age with a mass idolatrous assembly. Deep in the murk and mire of a Lovecraftian tomb, they will convene to eulogise the metaphysical Gods of Drone. Cloaked in bloodied robes, their cavernous 'oms' will crack the stratosphere in two.
As a quarter of a century of blood and thunder approacheth, imitators and inheritors fall to the wayside (fare thee well, Isis), but the mighty Neurosis roars on. The Oakland crew's 10th studio slab keeps the back-to-basics feel of 2007's Given to the Rising, sloughing off recent overtures to accessibility for pure Neurotic power. Read: wall-battering grunge, post-final battle atmospherics, and enough emotional gristle to feed a Tyrannosaurus rex.