[pullquote align=”normal” cite=”From Neurosis’ BandCamp page”]”NEUROSIS is music. Music in the same way that Wagner is music. Or that it all comes down. Or the graying granite planet we call home is both the cradle and coffin of all desire and hopes and expression forces its way through us and into wires and out of speakers framing a journey from here to there and not back again. Ever. This is a one-way trip”[/pullquote]
Honestly – when Roadburn revealed the first bands for 2016, it was pretty much settled and done. I had to go. Sure, some negotiations had to take place, and I of course still had to get an actual ticket (I had read some horror stories of the tickets selling out in minutes – you shouldn’t always believe everything your read…).
But, seriously, the band I consider to be the most important band to surface since Black Sabbath, celebrating their 30th anniversary with not one, but two career-spanning shows. How could I not go?
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Now, how come Neurosis are such an important band? Well, first of all they’re important to me on a personal level. I first got into Neurosis in 1990, when I picked up the The Word As Law album. This was just around the time where I first met the very special person, who would later become my wife, the mother of our children, and a companion through life, good as bad. Much the same as Neurosis would become a musical companion. And quite honestly – if it hadn’t been for Katja and Neurosis – well, I don’t know what black hole I would have ended up in – but it would have been much deeper and blacker than what the world has turned out to be, with them in my life, one of them with love, help and understanding (and the proverbial, necessary kick in the butt from time to time), the other with music that has opened so many pathways in my brain.
But they are of course also extremely important in the larger scope of extreme music, inspiring, paving the way, pushing the limits, creating the urge in others to push those limits even further. In short, extreme music would not at all have been the same, had Neurosis elected to put away their instruments after releasing Pain Of Mind in 1987.
Well, they did not, and from that relatively meager wellspring has grown an ever-expanding, ever-evolving machine of fantastic music, experimentation and of course also visions so bleak they are only matched by the overall future prospects for this very planet we exist on.
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Pain Of Mind was not a bad record, not at all. It’s a genuine hardcore (mostly punk) record, doing all the right things, but not pushing for new land per se. Interestingly enough, they did show a few Doom moments even on that album, but nothing on there could even begin to hint at what would follow. And the 1989 Aberration EP sort of followed in the footsteps of the debut. But only a year later: enter The Word As Law – and enter yours truly, who of course had no idea at the time, that this wonderful new band I’d discovered at the local record-pusher had already 4 years under their belt. (And a great big thanks to Jan @ Candy Records in Copenhagen for telling me I simply had to listen to that one…)
The Word As Law is an immense step up from the hardcore on Pain Of Mind. Still hardcore-y in the sound, it’s in a more post-hardcore vein, and it’s stock-filled with fantastic details and great ideas. Those raw, crushing vocals, the equally crushing guitars, the ever-changing music. And those oh-so-delightful bass-fills. It’s a blissful record in many ways – one that found it’s way to my heart within just a few bars.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”Neurosis, about attending Roadburn 2016″]”To be invited to celebrate our 30th anniversary in Europe at Roadburn is an absolute honor. Roadburn is a treasured and unique event that embodies the spirit of open minded community and original, emotional heavy music. We are humbled to be a part of it again”[/pullquote]
But as is so often the case with Neurosis, they had to move, had to tinker, had to change – and as immense the step from Pain Of Mind to The Word As Law, what happened on the road to Souls At Zero was shattering. This was the point when, to my mind, Neurosis really came into being as the musical force they now seemed destined to be. The first six years was a kinda protracted foreplay – now we were into the flesh of things. And I for one was both shocked, in awe, and loving every minute of it.
Since then, there seems to have been no looking back. From strength to strength, Neurosis have continued issuing album after album of a quality other bands would love to simply achieve once in their career. And of course they have been branching out, whether in their electronic alter-ego Tribes Of Neurot, in more introspective solo-releases, or as participants in other projects like Red Sparowes or Corrections House to name but a few.
Now, I won’t hold out a single Neurosis album as the album above them all – for several reasons. They’re all playing to different strengths, focusing on different aspects, building upon earlier efforts, but also liberating themselves from aspects of the earlier productions.
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When listening through the Neurosis-backcatalogue chronologically (which everyone really ought to try :-) ) these things become completely clear. But what also becomes clear is that each album is an entity of its own. And they’re not simply a collection of songs, but rather a compositional whole which together with the words strive for a relatively specific tone. The visions may all be quite bleak – but it is definitely not the same vision (or perhaps rather, not the same part of the vision) from album to album. And there’s definitely both clarity and beauty found in-between the bleakness.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”From ‘Falling Unknown’, track 5 on A Sun That Never Sets”]”You dream of a mountain, the peaks rise to the sky. Will you answer its call?
Is your heart still beating? Can you feel this at all? This landslide will bury us all.
With the storm on your mind and the clouds in your eyes, will you survive?”[/pullquote]
In and of itself, Neurosis are that rare beast, the band that never accepted coming to the end of their journey. There’s always another bend in the road to explore, new landscapes to discover. And though several reviewers have for the past decade accused them of having come to the end of their creative career, a simple open-minded listening to their music will find that this is indeed not so. Sure, they sound like Neurosis, they have carved out their road for themselves, and that’s the road they’re taking, and the changes from album to album might not be so spectacular as earlier on in their career. But they’re there nonetheless, and 30 years on they seem to still be exploring and experimenting. It’s simply, we’ve gotten so used to being run over by the next step these guys are taking, we might have become numbed. Or perhaps, those reviewers really don’t have the grasp of what is going on in the Neurosis-universe after all.
I vividly remember a few of the more mainstream reviewers at the time of The Eye Of Every Storm and Given To The Rising, trying to give the band a hard time. In the eyes of these reviewers, The Eye Of Every Storm might very well be a beautiful and toned-down album, but it was also a step away from what Neurosis really was(!). And thus Given To The Rising was the band acknowledging these criticisms and trying to get back into gear, into being Neurosis again. Well, if I never found mainstream reviewers vain before – this would have been just about what hit the nail for me. ;-)
In the end, it’s simply immersing yourself in the music that really counts – and that carries the ultimate rewards, when it comes to Neurosis. And should you, dear reader have gotten all the way through this, but still be a bit baffled about what the big fuzz is with this nearly 30-year old band, let me at least leave you with a recommendation: If you haven’t yet experienced the full width and breadth of this amazing band, do check out their 2003 collaboration with Jarboe. Put on a set of headphones and crank up the volume – I guarantee you, you will be blown away!
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Neurosis plays Roadburn 2016 with two full sets of blistering sonics on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th.
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