Review Summary: The mighty Neurosis put their ambience behind them and plunge back into the murky darkness of their previous albums.
To write a review of Neurosis album is a daunting task. Their music is monolithic and takes multiple listens just to absorb the structures of the songs. Then you have to add in all of those creepy layers of keyboards and guitar squalls that truly flesh out the songs. Neurosis began to create this vision in 1985 and have only improved upon their sound with each preceding album. In this time period, Neurosis have also made long, expansive songs their weapon of choice, only further pushing themselves away from any type of commercial acceptance. They have also influenced a whole new generation of post-metal acts such as Isis and Pelican, establishing themselves as forward thinking musicians that will be remembered by fans for years to come. Fortunately, they have continued on for the last 20 years down this same path and have proven that with Given to the Rising
that they are the godfathers of post-metal.
Upon my first listen to this album, it was quite clear that Neurosis had dropped much of their ambience sound that made up so much of their two previous albums, 2001’s A Sun That Never Sets
and 2004’s The Eye of Every Storm
. Judging even by the cover art, this album is dark and jagged with all the things any old school fan of Neurosis has come to love. The heaviness on this album is reminiscent of past Neurosis records such as 1996’s Through Silver in Blood
and 1999’s Times of Grace
. The tribal drums and heavily tuned down guitars play a large role throughout most of the songs, winding and slowly grinding away until the songs open up into expansive landscapes of lush beauty and eerie sound effects that cloak the listener in a haze of smoke. The opening track, "Given to the Rising", comes roaring out of the gate with a monster riff that sets the tone for the rest of the album. "Distill (Wathcing the Swarm)" might even contain some of the heaviest Neurosis riffs to date, only to be intertwined with those moments of ambience. Other songs such as "Water is Not Enough" have this same effect, punishing the listener before lapsing into ambience that is common to the bi-polar Neurosis sound. The other songs on this record contain the same heavy elements, but take minutes to finally arrive to the chaos that is created when the distortion is turned on. This is why Neurosis are so good at what they do.
Neurosis create long builds that make the listener pay attention, rewarding them with a tidal wave riff that floods the mind with visions of mystery and the abyss. The lush elements brought on by the keyboards and clean picked guitar riffs are what help to flesh out this album and make it more interesting than your typical heavy metal band. They create landscapes of sound that bands today use quite often in their music. Songs such as "To the Wind", "Hidden Faces", and the lengthy "Origin" use these elements to push the limits of their songs into territory that has been explored before, but not to this depth. The drums and bass add nicely to these moments of serene calmness, adding texture and simple rhythm that becomes hypnotizing. Keyboard effects range on this album from pulsing to soothing, creating sonic ventures that can sometimes make the listener seem like they are in a whole other world. The vocals of Steve Von Till can sound rather jagged to a first time listener. But once the songs begin to unfold, the voice drops into the background and the gargling-on-broken-glass type of vocals begin to fade. This is really one of the only downsides to this album that I can find. Von Till however makes up for his lack of vocal tones by writing lyrics that are spiritual and dark, adding to the many moods this album brings out. Add in a few spoken word interludes ("Shadow" and "Nine") with screeching or pulsing keyboards (these songs remind me of Vangelis type of soundtracks) and you have yourself a very long, deep album full of mystery and bi-polarity.
In conclusion, this is an album that will take a long time to digest. To the average music listener, this album is unfortunately not for you. Not to say that this is one of those bands that you wont understand, but the songs contained on this album are simply too long for a generation of music listeners who like their music short and to the point. For the more ambitious metal head such as myself, this album is a breathe of fresh air that I will never become bored with. If you have the patience and the time to take in an album with songs averaging 7 minutes apiece, this album will be rewarding and keep you coming back for more. This is quite possibly Neurosis’s finest album of their long, and inaccessible career. Given to the Rising
should please old fans as well as newer ones like myself.