Neurosis - Live At Roadburn 2007 12 inch
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Neurosis' evolution from crusty nobodies to the reigning kings of epic doomsludgewhatever is one of the more amazing transformations in metal. The band's debut album, 1987's Pain of Mind, is badly recorded hardcore. The titanic squall and face-caving tribal thump of 1996'sThrough Silver in Blood sounds like the work of a completely different and far more serious band.
Songs stretched to prog rock lengths without all the dainty and whimsical prog-rock bullshit. The rhythm section made everyone save early Swans-- an admitted influence-- sound weak and puny. And the riffs moved at lava-flow tempos, awesome and frightening in pretty equal measure. Neurosis weren't the first band to be ugly and majestic all at once, but at the time they felt pretty singular, especially considering their humble origins.
They don't sound quite so unique anymore, through no fault of their own. Neurosis' mid-90s sound has inspired more imitations and homages than most any other modern metal act. And Neurosis haven't stagnated over the last 14 years. (Melody! Who could have guessed?) But the band's basic goal remains the same as it did circa 1996: epic heaviness, music that raises you up only to pound you back down again.
In the absence of a new Neurosis studio album, Live at Roadburn 2007 is the usual quick-fix dose for fans. For any potential first-timers, it's an excellent performance. The band sounds totally locked-in with each other, which is important when you're playing music this deliberately paced. You don't want your crush-kill-destroy guitar climax to come in a second too late, you know? Fidelity's great, too, even if it understandably lacks the psychedelic thickness of the band's studio productions.
Personally though, when I come to Neurosis I want to feel like the band is roaring right over top of me with no mercy. True, Neurosis's guitars can sound just as enormous as they did back in the band's game-changing heyday. But those pin-you-to-the-wall riffs are now usually broken up by long dips into dark folkie strumming or whooshy planetarium keyboards or other Michael-Gira-meets-Steve-Howe ambient tomfoolery.
So yeah, Neurosis do the quiet-LOUD-quiet post-rock thing. (No real surprise they were added to the GY!BE-curated ATP.) But then again, they were doing it when most post-rock bands were still playing twee songs in their bedrooms. (And hell, Slint stole it from metal anyway.) One reason Neurosis excel at this rather tired dynamic is the apocalyptic intensity of the vocals after all these years; the tortured bellowing makes it feel like there was some real and scary human catharsis going down on stage, rather than some sterile formal exercise. When the band kicks into those climaxes, you understand why they've endured while so many of their imitators were D.O.A.: There's a certain kind of conviction you just can't rip-off.