Honor Found In Decay

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. From the ruptured spleen of the macrocosm will come Asag, demonic causer of sickness and violator of mountains. All living shall perish in the fires of an infernal abyss as Neurosis ascend to an astral plane far beyond the realms of the third dimension. Either that or Scott will call Steve up and say, "Happy Anniversary, man. What’s next?"

Followers of Neurosis seem to forget all too often that they are just normal guys. Their otherworldly noise shrouds their humanistic makeup. So it’s easy to ignore their humble, imperfect nature in favour of a more esoteric perception of a band that has mutated the face of metal and turned it into an avant-garde art exhibition. Yet normal dudes they are. Family men with familial commitments (so much so, in fact, that Neurosis as a touring act has equated to a thin string of one-off special performances, such as their appearance with Godflesh in London come this December).

Nonetheless, having a few Sprogs of Sludge around hasn’t abated the group’s wildly prolific disposition. Five years since the release of the biblically riffy Given To The Rising, the group have fragmented to embark on their own personal musical pilgrimages. Within half a decade, we’ve had Scott Kelly with Shrinebuilder, his neo-folk solo project, some regular radio spots, and a successful blog. Jason Roeder has been on the road with Sleep and Josh Graham has been making pretty pictures for A Storm of Light. So, you can’t really call it a hiatus as much as their own unique expeditions around Neurosisland (Noah Landis included by assisting Kelly with outside collaborations).

And from all of these outside ventures comes a more concrete understanding of Neurosis. That’s what their tenth studio album, Honor Found In Decay, acts as; an unspoiled consortium of all Neurosis and Tribes of Neurot’s lifework. Time away has aided Neurosis to fine tune their quiet/loud/quiet ratio and harness their monster racket. Unlike Times Of Grace or even earlier work like Souls Of Grace, the dynamics between gentle and crushing intertwine in a less dissonant, fiendish form. Their ‘fuck off’ confidence from Through Silver In Blood and Given To The Rising still resonate, but their wizened wits have honed a deeper, well-considered degree of evil.

Opening with an eddying high-ended pitch whirl, ‘We All Rage in Gold’ is reminiscent of Neurosis at their more spiritual, circa Jarboe collab or Through Silver In Blood‘s ‘Strength of Fate’. It’s also a sonic illustration of how deeply rooted their side-projects have penetrated this record. Nuances of Harvestman and Shrinebuilder frequently rise above the doomy dirge of the heaviness. Whereas Given To The Rising‘s ‘To The Wind’, for example, would soften yet still maintain discordant undertones, the sleepy weepy jangle segments of ‘My Heart For Deliverance’ explore stronger, major toned emotions that only heightens the riffing shitstorm that follow.

And what of their more metallic, sludgy moments? World-ending, bone-shattering, butt-clenching and other such hellishly clichéd adjectival phrases have never really given Neurosis enough credit. Their masterful axework and bombastic experimentation with chordal progression is unprecedented yet still feeds on the teet of metal and its many subcategories. Even Honor’s cover art is metal by devil-horned default. It’s as if Graham found a bunch of dead shit, stuck some spears in it, spat on it, and instagramed it (I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what happened). But dark and indeed bone-shattering it is. Every industrial ringout is savoured within an inch of its atonal being. ‘At The Well’ begins like Leonard Cohen’s ‘Wake’ until Kelly and Von Til fist fight with dysmorphic bass notes while Roeder pounds and pounds at a begrudging pace as if re-enacting choice scenes from Nil By Mouth. The track dips from full band clamour to dulcet, minimal whispers until everything comes to a cacophonous explosion. Never before have Neurosis sounded so painstakingly heavy; beating the sheer life out of themselves. Roeder rolls around the toms like a Duracell bunny as the line "In a shadow world…" is hocked out like two-day-old vomit. Bottomless bottom strings are layered with desperately twisted melody lines. No bullshitting around, just a quick UFC smash and grab, followed by a solid ten minutes of facial pummelling.

For the fifth time, Steve Albini has been recruited to make sense of all this madness. But Honor captures Neurosis at the most intense stage of their career. Albini’s Shellac days have made a real impact on the overall construction of the record; complex, graceful and hopelessly big. Songs like ‘Bleeding The Pigs’ have finally established the middle ground between ambient and destructive guitar blasting. ‘All Is Found In Time’ chugs and churns with almost black metal sensibilities before morphing into what sounds like entering the lair of Ming the Merciless with squelchy synths and hollow chord reverberations. This interplay between electronics and amps is comparatively untouchable.

It’s altogether, however, when Honor becomes indomitable. Dave Edwardson has upped the groove factor on his basslines to dizzying degrees on tracks like ‘Raise The Dawn’ as Landis’s laptop workings wheeze like a decapitated Johnny 5. Kelly and Von Til together hiss and growl like giants in vocal unison on ‘All Is Found In Time’ while Roeder hits with deafening precision. Ultimately, everything about this album is hideously punishing… yet beautiful. It’s not often an album of such stature exceeds one’s anticipations, but Honor is too astounding to not be revered. And Neurosis are a band that have worked too hard to be remembered as just normal guys…

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