Neurosis' Given To The Rising received a very impressive 8.6 rating from Pitchfork yesterday. The deluxe 180-gram double vinyl triple gatefold version of Given hits the shops next Tuesday. Neurosis will be playing a few Euro dates ending in London at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on June 30th. Sadly this will be the band's last live show for this summer. U.S. dates tba for late 2007.
Given to the Rising
In the hallowed halls of metaldom, the name Neurosis carries some pretty (no pun intended) heavy overtones: they're a staunchly DIY cult band with the most devoted following and a long track record of highly innovative thinking-man's metal. But anyone even vaguely familiar with their oeuvre would wisely not call them a doom band; they're way too varied for such a tag. On these San Franciscan metallurgists' ninth album, Given To the Rising, Neurosis are simply not fucking around. Within the first note you know you're in for a ride: no staple slow-building intros or atmospheric effluvia, just a crushing primordial mid-tempo riff that eventually falls into one of the album's repeating motifs of bendy, long-hanging funereal guitar lines, all braced with plenty of back-to-basics pummeling. The sense of purpose is developed further on "Fear And Sickness", where disjointed yet dissonantly harmonious axe lines dodge and dart in paganistic call-and-response around a swing-like snare and kick drum beat. These two dimly lit apocalypse-summoning tracks shine light on why Given very well may be the best Neurosis album in over a decade-- or at least since 1999's signature Times of Grace.
First a re-cap: It's difficult making a new album when you're a band like Neurosis. Much like the elders on which they were weaned (Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Black Flag, Swans), aspects of their sound have spawned entire micro-genres. Whether it be their kinetic mega-evil tribal drum-and-guitar interplay or their dense layering of creepy samples and textural atmospherics or their melodic instrumental passages that birthed the "metalgaze" school-- see Isis and bands such as Cult of Luna and Mouth of the Architect for starters-- it's hard to stay fresh when everyone's copping your every move. Which is why Given feels so smart and so standing-on-the-throats-of-our-imitators-and-not-giving-a-fuck confident.
All the past doomsday bells-and-whistles are still prevalent, all the progressive guitar mayhem and Steve Von Till's classic Tom Waits-meets-Michael Gira vocals. But unlike their last couple albums-- most notably 2004's introspective and mostly-delicate and majestic The Eye of Every Storm-- the noodley bits are tethered as if in direct response to all the quiet-loud-brood-quiet-loud brooding copycats. And songs like the two previously mentioned openers, as well as the Jesu-like "Hidden Faces" and the Mastodon-like chug-fest "Water is Not Enough", seem to be cribbing notes from the cribbers (as well as the non-copying competition) and then in turn streamlining the turns the cribbers previously cribbed. Such as the way that soundsculptor/keyboardist Noah Landis masterfully blends the dark ambient textures, not just for spooky intros and outros, but for dynamic passages of their own. Or the way that the songs-- most averaging around seven and a half minutes-- keep morphing from thunderous cacophony to desolate soul-searching melodic phrases, but with a mad scientist exactitude regarding all of the subtle, beautiful, and terrifying spaces in between.
Even dynamically adroit acts like Pelican and, once again, Isis have yet to explore these depths of shifting-- and, most importantly, gradual-- peaks and valleys. Neurosis have once again conjured those ominous trance-inducing dark spaces, but they've placed them in canyons even more broad and deep.
-D. Shawn Bosler, June 20, 2007