Review Summary: A meditation, a struggle
Neurosis have developed an impressive sense of duality throughout their initial decade of existence. Crushing metal riffs would suddenly give way to ambient soundscapes, adding new dimensions to their sound as the years went on. Massively influential to countless younger groups as a result, many took their own musical directions and paths. Neurosis themselves have ebbed and flowed beautifully throughout their massive career, turning 30 years old as a band only last year. Around the turn of the century, we saw them expand musical influences to include elements of ambient, folk, and progressive. Their latest, Fires Within Fires
, continues the streamlining of these evolutions that began with predecessor Honor Found in Decay
. Considerably shorter, these recent releases trim the fat of previous magnum opuses in a somewhat back-to-basics approach. Fires Within Fires
in particular takes a more purposeful style, despite being the shortest and most easily digestible Neurosis release in many years. This demands a close listen more than anything else, as the subtleties in each track flicker by quickly. Tempos are largely increased here, making for a refreshing groove feel present in many of the heavier moments.
Album opener “Bending Light” functions as the quintessential Neurosis song. For those accustomed to the band's recent development, it progresses as expected. After a short heavy intro it transforms into a dazzling post-rock section, then pummels the listener with heavy riffs and Scott Kelly’s expectedly powerful roars. The song is one of the band’s stronger cuts from the past decade, despite somewhat going through the motions. It possesses more dynamic qualities than the immediately following tracks, “A Shadow Memory” and “Fire is the End Lesson,” which lean more on grooving riffs and dissonant atmospherics. Overall, the aggressive side of Neurosis sounds stronger than ever in this new context: more immediate than the heavier moments of predecessor Honor Found In Decay
, which honestly excelled most during its quieter moments. This isn’t to say that Fires Within Fires
shares more in common with the heavier Given to The Rising
however. It achieves their balance of sounds impressively, with faster tempos making for a more exciting listen than some of the slower moments of previous efforts.
The songwriting is indeed top notch as always, and feels more purposeful than the previous two albums. Some may understandably yearn for the diverse instrumentation and experimentation that early 2000’s releases possessed, but it has been clear for a decade now that the band is simply in a different place now. The more meditative side of Neurosis is still strong though, especially in the last two tracks. After the driving qualities of “Fire is the End Lesson,” the final third of the album hearkens to the enchanting qualities of The Eye of Every Storm
. “Broken Ground” sees Kelly’s charismatic clean vocals over melodic guitars trading with heavier, psychedelic metal riffs. The menacing, quiet outro then leads right into absorbing album closer “Reach,” a meditative epic consisting of beautiful guitar textures. The sequencing is one of the best qualities of experiencing Fires Within Fires
, the short run time working to the album’s advantage. Ultimately, it feels massive in scope and is consistently engrossing, with enough new tricks to forecast a bright future for the experimental metal legends. Faster songs and a willingness to further explore their calmer odysseys make for their most rewarding release in over a decade.