Review Summary: Neurosis have spent 25 years re-defining what it means to be a metal band, and Given to the Rising is doing nothing to change that.
I wonder what the guys in Neurosis keep in their beards. If I were to guess, I’d probably say a back-up dose of kickass, which only leaves you to wonder: do they really need it? Seriously, for the past 25 years, they have been breaking down the foundation of extreme music and rebuilding it in their own image, influencing countless bands, starting a scene that now spans the entire spectrum of heavy music today, and have just generally cemented themselves as an indomitable creative force. They create music so dense that Opeth and Tool seem like a toddler’s merry-go-round ride in comparison, and crushing enough to force heavyweight stalwarts like Converge, Immolation, or any other band credited as being really, really exceptionally heavy, down to their knees. And they STILL have time to show off their sensitive side, often with a variety of minimalist, ambient passages puncturing the otherwise desolate, monolithic soundscapes of towering riffs and bulldozing drums that they so effortlessly create. Add in the fact that they are one of the most cult, highly intellectual, forward-thinking metal groups to ever exist and their inaccessibility to the general public (pussies), and you have a recipe that constitutes, well… a fairly large amount of kickass.
If I were to assign a metaphor to the music on Given to the Rising, I would say a valley, or a canyon, or a mountain, or something impossibly huge, steep, dense, and related to the gradual movement and shifting of the Earth. There is no nonsense on here. Just damn near over an hour of titanic, primordial mid-tempo riffs and the almost gorgeous, yet no less steep build-ups leading up to them. The album opens with its definitive title track with exactly that: the kind of herculean, mountain moving mid-tempo riff that has come to define their equally massive career. It’s a hook big enough to pull you and a seven hundred pound fish up with it. It’ll leave you stunned and mesmerized for the rest of the pummeling you’ll receive from the next ten tracks. But not so fast. After the back and forth motions of the main riff and a dreamy, ethereal ambient section, the title track climaxes with a frenzied fury of lead guitar over rhythm, making almost impossibly catchy melodies from the most the most unlikely source.
The next track, Fear and Sickness, is a schooling in noise manipulation. There is no solidity in its frame; just a constant stream of wailing guitar and repetitious, tribal drumming. The riffs rise like peaks and valleys over the constant stream of noise and the drums climb maniacally to reach the same heights. The next track is probably one of my all time favorite Neurosis cuts. To the Wind is gorgeous and ethereal, its atmosphere is melancholic and wistful, and the playful, dreamlike guitars fade in and out of solid, crushing, yet equally gorgeous walls of sound. The climax hits you like a sledgehammer, with Scott Kelly screaming in his most titan-like wail over one of the most towering, sky-sundering riffs I have ever heard.
The rest of the album is no less punishing or original. Hidden Faces has one of the grooviest riffs ever midway through the song that any metal head should be inspired to bang their head along to. Water is Not Enough feels desolate and thirsty, with vocal echoes and guitar wails, and climactic riffs adding to the atmosphere of, well… nothingness. Distill has some of the best drumming on the album, with furious fills propelling the music forward; a stunning feat when you consider just how large the riffs on that song are (or the album in general). Finally, the eleven minute epic closer, Origin, is a soft, sad, and gorgeous build-up that slowly, ponderously leads up to and teases with one, last, monstrous climax that will no doubt leave you utterly satisfied with the conclusion.
Given to the Rising is an odd beast in their discography. It feels like their early days of Through Silver and Blood and Enemy of the Sun. Days when Neurosis were a bit less for texture and beauty and a bit more for the crushing and powerful. But it also sounds like a record built from the wisdom and experience of a band much older than they were when they recorded those two albums. Given to the Rising is not a return to form, but simply the point where a band retreads old ground with new eyes, and creates something startlingly different as a result. In that respect, it can’t be understated that Given to the Rising easily makes a case for one of the best records in their startlingly groundbreaking career.