Review Summary: A solid release for the titans of post-metal. The ambience is great. This album is a bridge between the heavier Through Silver in Blood and the mellower The Eye of Every Storm.
What did Oakland ever do to the members of this band. Part sludge, progressive,post-metal, doom and to an extent drone, Neurosis' sound is a very interesting one. Many listeners wouldn't be able to fathom all of the layers that are present. A lightyear away from there rather boring hardcore past, Neurosis has had what is probably the largest influence on the sound of modern post-metal with bands like Isis being forefront. Often incorporating mounds of ambience and samples, Noah Landis plays an integral part in the band, much like Frank Delgado of the Deftones, which makes the songs more intriguing. The distinctive tribal drumming used throughout is what makes Neurosis distinguishable from other similar bands. Times of Grace, though not as great nor as dark as Through Silver in Blood, is still a solid release from the band.
The introduction to the album entitled "Suspended in Light" is filled with eerie samples, high pitched feedback and what almost sounds like sonar. There is a passage of spoken words, but I am not able to understand them. The intro soon fades out and becomes "The Doorway". This song utilizes a chugging guitar riff, a style of playing that a major characteristic of post-metal. The vocals in this song are relentless in their delivery. Scott Kelly delivers most of the bands vocals and his voice is very raw and coarse. Kelly and Von Till make good use of the remarkably low tuning of the guitars, playing some of the most brooding guitar sounds I have heard.
Fast tempo tribal drumming is used in combination with the dual vocals of Kelly and Von Till to set the mood of "Under the Surface". A repeated guitar line that is heavy on the bass sounds fantastic even though it is not up to speed with the rest of the band. A break from the chaos has a very uneasy feeling to it. The ambient section doesn't last long before the entire band comes back, full-force and heavier than before. The repeated lines of "Your shell is hollow/ Your shell is hollow/ So am I/ The rest will follow/ The rest will follow/ So will I" sound perfect accompanying the music. I believe that "Under the Surface" is the standout track of the album, because of the anger that is delivered through the music and lyrics.
The initial tempo of "The Last You'll Know" is comparable to the previous tracks., but this dies down rather quickly. The samples are the focal point of this track. Many different samples, including one that sounds like a jet engine, are used simultaneously along with an organ which makes this track a welcome change of pace. The track repeats this pattern a couple of times, making the track feel very boring with the exhausting repetition. "Belief" has a very ominous attitude, with the ambient samples and the simple drumming. The vocals contribute to this with their resemblance to the "robot" sounding vocals you might find in Cynic, an influential death metal band. After the pointless filler track of "Exist", Neurosis deliver another excellent track, "End of the Harvest". Laid back in its approach, builds and builds adding thick distortion to heighten the tension. This is the first track that has the features the bassist's vocals, which sound like grunts. The song explodes into a choppy guitar section which rhythmically changes from quarter notes to eighth notes simulating an army's march.
"Descent" features my personal favorite instrument, the bagpipe. There isn't much to the song, it is only acts as a bridge between "End of the Harvest" and "Away". Being the longest track on the album, it is exceedingly easy to become very bored. Easily the most mellow track on the entire album, "Away" uses a very slow guitar line to accent the melancholic vocals that are on much of the track. At around the six minute mark, distortion is added and distant yelling can be heard, making the track excessively depressing. The unusually high pitch voice of Kelly along with the menacing bass make the title track have a very doomy sound. The excessive bending of guitar notes adds to the suspense, but the band doesn't capitalize on the suspense. Instead they fade the song out. I would say that "Times in Grace" is the most disappointing song on the album. There could have been an amazing climax to the song and the album. No pay-off is provided to the listener and "The Road To Sovereignty" doesn't provide one either as it is just another ambient track.
With a band like Neurosis, every song is going to be strenuous. If you don't listen closely, you may miss out on the subtle sections of the album that make it so unnerving and worthwhile. This album and A Sun that Never Sets is Neurosis' progression from the insanely dark, Through Silver in Blood to the more mellow The Eye of Every Storm. The large amount of ambient tracks can be bothersome and the repetition is the same. If you can come to a point where these characteristics don't bother you or if you are already a fan of Neurosis/sludge/doom/post-metal then Times of Grace can be a great album to listen to. The guitars are heavy, the tribal drumming sounds great, and the atmosphere is scary, that is Neurosis in a nutshell.
"Under the Surface"
"End of the Harvest"