Review Summary: Neurosis and Jarboe team up and create one of the more disturbing albums I've ever heard.I tell ya, if God wants to take me he will… he’s coming
… With those words, one of the most sinister and disturbing CDs I’ve ever heard begins its hour-long passage. This album is the result of a collaboration between Jarboe of the Swans
on vocals and Neurosis
as her backing band. The music is unmistakably Neurosis, but the vocals and lyrics of Jarboe, make this a whole new animal, a disturbed animal. I tell ya, if God wants to take me he will… with a touch of his cold hands
… Her voice is ominous, fragile, scared, and frightening all at once. For those unfamiliar with either band, the briefest of backgrounds may be in order. Neurosis play a dense style of post-metal that seems built to bring in the apocalypse. Mixing samples and sounds with dense walls of guitar rage, interspersed with moments of mellow, often dark, sections. Swans, play something similar, but are more entrenched in the sounds of Gothic Rock. They set themselves apart, though, by being much more sinister and angry then the average band from that genre. Together these two creative forces, Neurosis and Jarboe, just about equal the sum of their parts.
The album starts off with the song “Within”. It actually begins with an ominous synth line, and the thick rhythms Neurosis is known for. Even with how dark the song already sounds, it is increased ten-fold once Jarboe comes in on vocals. When saying the line “I tell ya, if God wants to take me he will
” she uses a strong southern accent, and sounds like a person that knows they’re going to die and is ready for it, but then she utters the words “he’s coming
”. When she says those words she sounds like a frightened child, as if God is this malevolent force that is coming for her and her death won’t be painless. This lyrical direction continues with minor changes when she abruptly just starts breathing deeply as if she’s just seen a ghost, and suddenly the music stops. With a single light keyboard sound she begins to sing the type of evil nursery rhyme you’d expect to hear on a scary movie right before some dead little girl turns around and scares the crap out of you. Then the music starts back up, and she begins her schizophrenic rant about God coming for her, sounding resolved and frightened at the same time. The song ends with more heavy breathing and that damn nursery rhyme.
As the first song fades away, a few things should become clear. The first thing is that there was never a point when the band moved into their typical wall of sound where the aggression levels are pumped to the extreme. Instead their music is similar to the aggression level on much of The Eye of Every Storm
. This will end up holding true through the entire album. Instead they are content to play a more subdued roll and let Jarboe create the emotional feel of the songs. The next thing that’s noticeable is that there were never any guitars on the song. The entire framework of the first song is composed of bass, drums, and synths. In later songs the guitars do make regular appearances, but it’s the synths and samples, accompanied by the bass player and drummer that create a large portion of the music. Just because a lot of the songs are dominated by the synths, you must remember that this is Neurosis, not New Order
. They never delve into cheap pop sounds or anything that resembles a happy or catchy melody and this lack of any kind of pop sound is only reinforced by the heavy rhythms laid down by the drummer and bass player.
The next few songs introduce the heavy guitar sounds that most Neurosis fans would miss if they were gone from this album altogether. Their main function within this album is to lay down slow fat riffs that never generally take the lead role of the music, but instead serve to compliment the synths and the capable rhythm section. The synths and sounds on this album really are some of the most creative of Neurosis’ career; they’re heavily processed, sometimes reversed, faded in and out, and otherwise distorted into something dark and strange. Just as in the first track though, it is the vocals of Jarboe that push the songs from dark to disturbing. She goes from processed spoken word parts where she sounds like an insane person talking to herself to parts where she is singing but it sounds like she is only singing because she is scared not to, as if something horrible would happen to her if she stopped. There’s just an aura of fear in most the parts of the songs where she actually sings. From fear she often goes into places where she sounds crazy and angry at the same time, as when she is singing “I’ll destroy you” over and over on the song “Taker”, reinforced by a deep bass line, rhythmic percussion, and some dark guitar sounds.
Few would argue against the peak of the album being the nine-minute song, “Erase” which most effectively mixes the elements of both bands. Despite the length of the song, there is no long intro or drawn out mellow parts, it jumps right in with a heavy riff and heavier rhythm with Jarboe’s voice now slightly distorted while she rants like an insane killer. Half way through the song with her screeching “Defy me, Defile Me” over and over again as her vocals become more and more agitated, suddenly the guitars drop and are replaced by more synth which eventually stops as well, and all that is left is a simple clean guitar sound and Jarboe’s psychotic whispers, scared singing parts, and overall schizophrenic delivery. When the song picks back up, it’s readily apparent that Jarboe is now pissed. For the next minute or so she simply screams “Defy Me, Defile Me” over and over, and with each uttering of the phrase her vocals become more raspy until it literally sounds like she is shredding her vocal chords with every breath… simply unsettling.
The last three songs revert back to a more synth-dominated sound, but are still just as dark and disturbing as anything else on the album. This album really is a must have for any serious fan of Neurosis as it presents a side of them that they only ever hint at on their own albums. This is also a good album for people who like Neurosis, but found some of their heavier sections a bit over the top and noisy. This album can also safely be recommended to anyone that likes dark, disturbing music. Basically, it is definitely worth seeking out.