Review Summary: Every band has to start somewhere, but the young Neurosis sound wise and experienced on Souls at Zero.
Recent times have revealed a large number of bands circle jerking around the most influential heavy metal band next to Black Sabbath. Quite simply put, most of these bands pale in comparison to these legendary post-metal doomsters. Contained on Souls at Zero
is Neurosis' ‘truest’ form of the what they would expand on with future releases. Rather then continue down their thrashy path on 1990s The Word is Law
, Neurosis simply did the opposite by creating an amazing post-metal blue print; formulating extravagant ideas seamlessly without sounding pretentious and quite possibly spawning an entire genre of post-metal jerk fests.
Beginning with ‘To Crawl Under Ones Skin’, a dizzying array of news broadcasts unfolds into a sludgy thudding that is followed by a serene build that the band is commonly known for, leading into a slice n’dice riff filled with screeching guitars and a hypnotically pummelling rhythm section…. all within the first four minutes. This is worth mentioning seeing as future Neurosis releases generally take eight plus minutes to go through all off these motions. This isn’t a negative aspect or anything or that sort, Souls at Zero
is a more direct affair than their latter albums to follow such as Through Silver and Blood
or the tranquil The Eye of Every Storm
. This also doesn’t mean at this point in time that Neurosis hadn’t learned to utilize their peak/ valley effect to full benefit. While Neurosis still enjoy a good, prolonged note that rings out in the dead of night, Souls at Zero
contains a more steady arsenal of riffs and rhythms that would keep the bored-out-their-minds listeners of newer Neurosis more interested. A few other fine examples of these wildly changing song structures can be found in ‘Souls at Zero’; a song that begins with a slinky (and creepy) guitar passage that takes a rip-roaring turn into deepening chord progressions and proggy dissonance, and ‘A Chronology For Survival’; a building bass line that leads into a screeching wah-wah infused lead riff, finished off with mammoth riffs complemented by a violin. Its hard to believe that Neurosis were once young and less disciplined in their dynamical shifts (which would eventually mature into glorious soundscapes upon future releases).
Production wise, Souls at Zero
is crystal clear, allowing for the perfect mix in instruments and also allowing for more attention to details. One of these noticeable details is the audible bass lines, tightly wound up around a pummelling, tribalistic rhythm section that would choke you purple. Just listen to ‘The Web’ throughout its hypnotizing rhythm section and you will find a bass line that makes the song slowly pulse along until the song breaks apart to only reconstruct itself again. Another detail quite noticeable on the album is the use of soundclips taken from media/ movies that add to great effect into the songs intros/outros (Neurosis would drop these soundclips after Enemy of the Sun
). ‘To Crawl Under Ones Skin’ begins with a mash of broken radio signals that are the perfect lead in to the eerie juggernaut. ‘Sterile Vision’ features a clip taken from the original 1953 H.G. Wells classic, War of the Worlds
, ending the already dreary song off with praised singing from the city dwellers as they watch the American Army destroy the flying saucers. One final detail that may or may not suit the casual listeners taste are Scott Kelly’s screaming roars that can be a tad too high in the mix throughout, making his vocal delivery a chore to digest the first few listens through. However, Kelly (and Steve Von Till’s) lyrical approach is bleak and war torn, perfectly complementing their belted vocal delivery.
It’s interesting to listen to a well-seasoned bands humble beginning and to listen to where their ideas first begun. For a new fan of the band, Souls at Zero
would be the best place to start. Neurosis over the years have continued to make their music more challenging with each release and have continued to push the limits of their calm/ harsh dynamics. Souls at Zero
feels a little more casual in its song writing with the song structures changing up enough for a first timer to actually get a feel for the bands flow. However, don’t let this statement fool you; Neurosis still knock down buildings with bludgeoning force and tidal wave riffs, all the while sending you on a hypnotic journey into the unknown. With this in mind, Souls at Zero
may be their easiest album to digest and yet, still lays out the blueprint for every other post-metal band in existence.