Neurosis - Honor Found In Decay
When a band like Neurosis releases a record, people wait on opposite sides of the fence for it. Some will lavish adulation on the record before ever really listening to it. The rest will stand ready to stomp on the album, crack it under the boot heels and try desperately to be the one critic that establishes his/her record of “Anti-establishment” by taking down a band that has become an institution. The release of a Neurosis album shoulders a lot of emotions that, for me at least, takes away from the real impact of the record.
This brings me to Honor Found In Decay, the latest Neurosis release and one that has already garnered every distinction from genius to boring. People expecting Enemy Of The Sun or Through Silver In Blood era Neurosis will be disappointed. This album is just as dark and takes just as many musical chances, but it’s an album that has a quieter emotion about it. Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till have brought some of their solo record textures into this mix, which creates a nice counter position to the loud and aggressive elements.
“We All Rage In Gold” begins our journey. The first step is a quiet bass line that bobs and weaves like ocean waves. The calm before the storm. A riff, one that has more of a blues vibe than I’d expect from Neurosis, powers through the calm and Scott Kelly bellows “I walk into the water/to wash the blood from my feet”. Like Neurosis or hate them, nobody can touch the pure adrenaline and acerbic disdain of the vocals. Outside of the pure power of the song, “We Rage In Gold” also delighted me because of the elements of Amebix flowing through it. The desperation of the riff, the violent surge of the vocals, it’s all very much Neurosis but peeking out, just behind the musical carnage, the ghost of Amebix is smiling. The final movement drops into a sludge riff grinding against itself, creating tension peppered with bits of noise and samples from Noah Landis.
“At The Wall” is the next phase of the journey. This is the first glimpse of Von Till and Kelly’s solo work being built into the record. A lone acoustic guitar plays gently beneath the weary and raspy vocals of Steve Von Till, who has long championed this style of stripped down emotion in his solo albums. Jason Roeder does a nice job of bringing in the tribal drums without overpowering the solitude of Kelly’s vocals. Even as the guitar line and feedback pour in and Von Till’s rasp morphs into a growl, there’s still an ease and calm to it.
Everything happening in “At The Wall” feels purposefully restrained. Neurosis love to play with tension. Here they use restraint to create it. The tension builds to a climax and then, bagpipes (or guitars that sound like bagpipes) come in indicating a quiet rest period before the storm rages again. The second rest period is longer, with the vocals acting again as a gentle narrator. The pay off of the second rest period is the restraint is lifted and “At The Wall” explodes. There’s a sound layered into these last measures that could be a sample or a guitar. Whatever it is, it’s chilling and takes the song to another level.
Spellbinding, a term I don’t use very often, but fits with “My Heart For Deliverance”. Neurosis brings in their love of the ambient on this one. The first two minutes is a swirling vortex of minimalistic sounds and samples. To be honest, when the song kicks it, it loses me a bit. The intro is so hypnotic that the crash is a little too much for my taste. After some initial slow riffs and drums, “My Heart For Deliverance” mellows into a slow elegance that is spellbinding. The kind of passage that lifts you up and transports you to another place entirely. Call it theme music for the mind’s eye. To me this “My Heart For Deliverance” thrives with the quiet. The noisy feels out of place in it.
“Bleeding The Pigs” is one of my favorite tracks on the entire record. Dark, menacing and tribal, “Bleeding The Pigs” is that ambient-meets-noise ideal that has catapulted Neurosis into who they are. It takes a gift to orchestrate this kind of slow boil, especially with so many tiny bits involved in it. When Steve Von Till begins his creaking vocals, the moment becomes very powerful. You exist in that moment, and for a few seconds there is nothing. Again Roeder’s drums are the driving force that holds the song together. As a drummer it’s always annoyed me that Roeder doesn’t get the credit he deserves as one of the best heavy rock drummers around.
“Casting The Ages” is more of the sludge and grim darkness we’ve come to expect from Neurosis. Like “We All Rage In Gold”, this is a more straightforward jam. It’s classic Neurosis, thick and mean, with lots of dynamics and screaming. “As Is Found…In Time” is another song where Neurosis uses restraint to create mood. The more up-tempo work is held back, as though the band was dancing around the edge but not jumping off of it. In a great use of dynamics, Neurosis opens up when they slow down. The reserve lifts when the halftime comes in and it really elevates the entire thing.
“Raise The Dawn,” the final track on Honor Found In Decay, has an interesting backstory to it. From what I understand, Noah Landis crafted the tune digitally from samples of Neurosis rehearsing as well as bits of noise and a very lovely violin. It’s a strong finisher for the record, beautiful and ugly at the same time. It also showcases Landis, who is an unsung hero of Honor Found In Decay. His touches are felt in all the songs, sometimes subtly, sometimes in your face, but always there and always pushing the song to be better.
Is Honor Found In Decay the most brilliant slice of music ever written by Neurosis? I don’t know. I don’t care. Neither should you. Neurosis is a band that is built and creates on the fundamental ideas of entropy and rebirth. Systems breaking down and new things rising from those ashes. As soon as one album is done, it begins to break down for them and by the time they return to the studio, Neurosis are looking to take the ashes of what was before and evolve into something else. Either you’re with that idea or you’re not. Saying Neurosis are “boring” or “have lost it” because they haven’t made More Souls At Zero or Given To The Rising (Again), is like chastising nature because it doesn’t have uniformity in what it creates.
Honor Found In Decayis another evolution for Neurosis. People can judge the record by what the band has done before or they can simply enjoy the journey Neurosis is presenting to us this time. Regardless of opinions, ideas and, yes, even critics, Honor Found In Decay is another triumph for a band that refuses to rest on its laurels.