Review Summary: The fury of Neurosis comes together in what could be considered one of the first true post-metal records.
As far as Neurosis have come during the last 15 years of their career, a close examination of their first two albums (Pain of Mind
(1988) and The Word as Law
(1990)) will reveal a primitive proto thrash/ punk band who were beginning to realize that their Bay Area thrash scene was dissolving rapidly. A redirection of sound was a must at this point. With a sound change and an understanding of their music scene crumbling underneath their feet, Neurosis began to take their music into other directions that had never been explored before. 1992’s Souls at Zero
found Neurosis meddling with less direct blows to the head and crushingly longer arrangements, transforming their sound into a lurking monster that is fully understood on Enemy of the Sun
. While Souls at Zero
may have been the first step in a brilliant move by the band, Enemy of the Sun
found Neurosis trekking down the same path with a more focused end result.
Its becomes apparent what the listener is in for when the first bass lines of ‘Lost’ plod along at a sluggish pace, leading into ominous power chords/ harmonics, and finally breaking into a mammoth swing of sped up riffs that could shake the bowels of God himself. Moments of disturbing melody are shaped during the calmer sections of this song, finally leading into an outro that follows suit to the intro and fastening the song together into a neat little package; all in a span of nine minutes and forty one seconds. Tired yet? As simplistic a formula as this sounds (sarcasm), this song alone can be exhausting enough for any listener without a penchant for long, mid-to-slow tempo post metal tunes. Alternatively, this can be a rewarding challenge for anyone brave enough to endure a sludge fest that constantly moulds itself inside-out and back again into an ever inquisitive piece of enigmatic brain food. This is pretty much the unconventional blueprint for the album as a whole.
After a strange building intro, consisting of an East Indian woman singing (weird, I know), ‘Raze the Stray’ shows off the bands love of earth shattering, three chord strikes that sound like a one-two punch to the face. Despite these weird add-ins of culture and noise (check out the song ‘Lexicon’ for an interesting description of what it would sound like listening to heavy metal underwater), Neurosis uses these attributes towards some peculiar and great moments on the disc. ‘Enemy of the Sun’ begins in this fashion with a weird echo vocal effect that leads into one of their traditional monolithic, bouncy riffs, but is followed up by a noteworthy tom-tom swirling, bass ridden bridge that climaxes with a bang. All in all, the majority of this disc will certainly hold your attention if you’re a fan of strange post metal experimentation, especially the final song clocking in at nearly sixteen minutes consisting of a drum-line like tom-tom jam session. This is a commendable feat for the band, considering they utilized the drumming talents from four of the five band members (not including their sampler/ keyboardist) as well as five other studio drummers that collaborate into a build of tom-tom pounding tribal music (complete with didgeridoos) that spiral into hypnotic sections of chanting, slow rhythm changes, and absolutely thumping passages of pure tribal warfare. Despite the songs length and tendencies to be a-bit-too-much, it stands as one of the better closures to any Neurosis album.
Main vocalists and songwriters Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly are a bizarre pairing so to speak. As creatively perplexing as their music already is, the duo writes in an almost spiritual kind of way while matching their vocals to his notes in a very fitting manner. Kelly’s commanding yells and low growls are well suited to the heavier sections of the songs while Von Till’s cleans are very gravely, sounding like he’s desperately looking for some form of meaning. In any case on this album, his lyrics are bizarre and seem to be left open-ended for infinite listener interpretations. A sample of lyrics taken from the song ‘Enemy of the Sun’ demonstrates this:
Torn of this lands disgrace/ Too hungry to contain a future/ The sun bathes my wounds with a veil of rage/ It’s rays dyed with the blood of our disrespect/ Suffering for the wisdom long forgotten/ The sound of bloodletting echoes on the wind/ The suicide of drought for a faith destroyed/ We starve with pride and glass in our throats
Besides some bizarre lyrics and extremely weird, musical integrity presented here, Neurosis have undoubtedly proven themselves as the kings of sludgy post metal. Not only with Enemy of the Sun
were they setting themselves apart from anything that had been done in metal before, they were also setting the bar high for a horde of bands to follow in the new millennium. The fury of Neurosis comes together into a grand fashion, of what could be considered one of the first true post-metal records. This is an absolute essential for anyone who is curious about where post metal began its slow start (no pun intended) and why post metal has gained so much popularity over the years (well, sort of).