Neurosis – Fires Within Fires
Neurot Records – Vinyl / CD / DD
Released September 23rd 2016
What can I really say about Neurosis?
This is the eleventh Neurosis studio album, and quite honestly, they’re as much an institution at this point as a band. We’re talking here, folks, about a band that is so influential that they’ve literally defined an entire genre, sometimes referred to as post metal. They started off as seemingly another punk/hardcore band, though by their third album they’d mutated into something we hadn’t heard before. They’ve inspired and served as the primary influence for bands like Isis, Cult Of Luna, and Minsk. They’ve continued to develop their sound and evolve, to take chances, and yet they don’t have a single dud in their rather extensive catalog. That alone is an accomplishment worth noting.
What else can I really say about Neurosis? I suppose that I should delve into the actual album at this point, and I’ll assure you, Fires Within Fires sounds very much like a Neurosis album. It’s a bit more cerebral than their last two, and it has a dark, swirling psychedelic atmosphere going on throughout. I like it as much as any of their recent output. For me personally, they’re never going to top Enemy Of The Sun, though I’ll admit that this is rapidly becoming one of my favorites in their catalog based on the psych focus, dynamics, and retention of their heaviest elements. At first, my only complaint was the length – five songs at around 41 minutes. However, there’s no filler; my beef with an album like A Sun That Never Sets was that it was too damn long in the tooth and meandering at times. In the context of this album, the brevity works wonders for Neurosis.
The opening track, “Bending Light” initially sounds like a slowed and stripped down version of the early Pink Floyd classic “The Nile Song” for about the first minute, before it morphs into a quieter, more sinister section for a spell. They re-hash the opening riff in a cleaner manner, letting the atmospheric keyboards and samples come a little more to the forefront, then launch into a full scale assault on the eardrums. It’s everything that’s familiar about Neurosis: harsh, abrasively screamed vocals, guitar riffs that juxtapose the melodic with the dissonant, a thick low end provided by the bass, and intense drumming interlaced with tribal flourishes. All of this is delivered with a weighty emotional intensity and a backdrop of shifting soundscapes.
The second song, “A Shadow Memory” starts off quieter, with pulsing electronics leading into a catchy clean guitar hook. Soon enough the song opens up into full throttle riffs and the familiar vocal styling. The opening is rehashed, giving the song some subtle dynamic touches. Track three, “Fire Is The End Lesson” starts more boldly; the guitars are centered around aggressive hooky chords, though they’re slightly off kilter, which seems to be the theme of the song. Later on, it climaxes in a glorious barrage of heavier, more primal riffs and noisier guitars. The keyboards also add to the wall of sound effect that they achieve by the song’s conclusion.
“Broken Ground” is a pretty stripped down track, focusing on a noisy, repetitive riff and melody for most of the song. Near the end it breaks down into a softer, more psychedelic section. The closing track “Reach” features cool vocal harmonies and an overall softer, more haunting and intimate tone. The final two minutes of this ten minute track descend into dark, heavy riffs punctuated and echoed by divebombing pitchshifted keyboards before it all just abruptly ends.
Like I said above, if you dig Neurosis, I can’t see why you wouldn’t like this album. It certainly centers around atmosphere and psychedelia more heavily than their last two, though there is an urgency to the arrangements that heralds back to their earlier work. There aren’t any glaring flaws, the songs are solid, and there’s also a lot of variety and dimension going on throughout. I’ll admit that I’m a bit bummed that I can’t find something a bit more creative to write about Fires Within Fires, though my rants and diatribes are usually based around criticisms, and I find precious few here to work with.
Reviewed by Andy “Dingbat” Beresky