Monday, August 06, 2007

Neurosis—Given to the Rising (Neurot)
Neurosis have earned the right to do anything they want at this point. They release their own records, they tour when and where they want. If any other band was in this position, one might expect a certain laziness to creep into their music. This is Neurosis, however, so the only expectation is steadfast, indomitable excellence... Their releases since Times of Grace have seen the gradual introduction of a certain terse moodiness and quietude associated with post rock, a tendency that Neurosis acolytes Isis have embraced much more decisively on albums like Panopticon. The logical outcome of Neurosis's musical progression could result in an album entirely mellowed out and interchangeable with any mopey indie-rock outfit. But Neurosis music comes from the heart, so forget logic and the unimaginative reductionism that usually constitutes other bands' “artistic growth.” Given to the Rising slams the brakes on that stylistic trajectory with a batch of dark, heavy songs built upon riff after riff after riff. The album is full of those Neurosis terror moments, where a murky tangent suddenly explodes as the whole band unleashes one of those crusher riffs. This is nothing new for Neurosis, of course. The most novel aspect of Given to the Rising is that they’ve chosen to focus on the dark and heavy. They played one or two of these songs live when I saw them in November, but I was too busy trying not to die to file away the fine details of the new material. They’ve worked with Steve Albini again, who’s given them their best recording yet...perfectly spare and direct. Neurosis songwriting methods don't stick to any rules other than songs should have a beginning and end and be terrifying, so to try to describe the unpredictable tangents within each track would be the equivalent of spoiling the plot of a long-awaited film. I’ll just say that once you’ve experienced the opening title track—one of the greatest songs they’ve ever written—you’ll want, you’ll need, to stay seated and hear the rest. Those who’ve felt the exhilaration of a new Neurosis album know what I mean. You can write me afterward once you've recovered sufficiently and we’ll compare notes. With many bands of Neurosis’s vintage, the tendency is to point new listeners to an album four or five releases back, where the band made the big breakthrough. With Neurosis, however, their sense of quality control is such that you could start with Given to the Rising and immediately "get" what they've been about since they began their magnificent trek.