Review Summary: The album that began the band's journey.
Neurosis are widely known as the forefathers of the post metal movement, but they’re constantly getting snubbed. How many people have listened to Isis (or any number of other post metal bands) and ignored Neurosis. In fact, how many so-called Neurosis fans have actually bothered to listen to albums pre-dating Through Silver in Blood
? A good follow-on to that question would be to find out how many people have ever bothered with Neurosis’ first two albums, Pain of Mind
and The Word as Law
? A look at the ratings from this site imply that barely ten-percent of Neurosis listeners bothered, and that many of them apparently expected another post metal album and rated down when it didn’t happen. The Word as Law
isn’t post metal, but it’s also not the unrefined below-average album that the ratings would have you believe.
In 1990 Neurosis had barely started to develop their signature sound – they weren’t the simple hardcore of Pain of Mind
but they also weren’t nearly the band that created Enemy of the Sun
just three years later. The Word as Law
could best be described as the transition to the transition. It still has a hardcore soul, but has moved firmly into metal territory. It is the album that began the band’s move towards building dark, oppressive atmospheres through the use of slow builds and darker tones. The difference is that the build-ups take only seconds to complete as opposed to multiple minutes these days. This album also takes a more direct approach at building the dark atmospheres through the use of guitar tones and a three-pronged vocal attack without any of the ambient interludes that would come a bit later. Probably the most notable thing about this album is that it contains their most blatant display of progressive influences of any album since. The progressive aspects are mainly displayed through the excellent rhythm work of the bass player and drummer, but they also occasionally shine through in actual song construction as well – “To What End” being a good example of that.
Only two years after this album Neurosis would release Souls at Zero
and really begin their transition towards post metal, but that doesn’t mean that The Word as Law
is disposable. Yes, it’s a bit raw around the edges and it’s certainly more straight-forward than anything since, but it’s still an essential listen. The Word as Law
is the only album where the band really wear their progressive influences on their sleeve, especially through some creative rhythm work. After this point, the band would slowly delve into huge layers of sound that placed the bigger picture over individual performances, so it’s nice to have at least one album where the individual players can still be recognized. Basically, don’t go into this expecting a post metal release. Approach this album as an enjoyable history lesson where you’re treated to the bare-bones roots & foundation of a band that would quickly move on to bigger things.