Sunday, September 23, 2012

Album Review: Neurosis - "Given to the Rising"

As an avid fan of sludge and doom metal, I find it surprising how it's taken me this long to listen to Neurosis. There hasn't really been a reason for it, I just haven't gotten around to listening to them. I finally picked up their latest effort from 2007, Given to the Rising.

If War Horse had Neurosis as it's soundtrack, I would have totally considered seeing it.
Neurosis is a California based metal band that started with a more punk inspired sound and incorporated more sludgy elements later in their career. They've been around for almost thirty years now and have nine studio albums under their belts (they'll have a tenth come October 30th), so it's safe to say they know what they're doing. Given to the Rising is the first full album by them that I've heard, so I can't really make too much more of an observation on their evolution through the years than what's on their Wikipedia page.

I've been subjected to some of vocalist Scott Kelly's other works though, through stoner/ doom super group Shrinebuilder and his incredible performance on the title track of Mastodon's Crack the Skye. The latter is a gargantuan and galaxy-sprawling song, stampeding you over with it's unrelenting heaviness while the former is a  down-tuned groove laden riff fest.

Neurosis however, somewhat blindsided me after I got used to hearing Scott Kelly's voice in these other efforts. Given to the Rising is still heavy, but instead of offering the crushing power of "Crack the Skye" or the grooves of Shrinebuilder, it seems to exist solely to transport the listener. Neurosis are masters of dynamics here. They can send you out to a quiet, desolate desert, perfectly shown on the tracks "Shadow" and "Nine", and can rip you out and toss you right into a bleak world where disease has toppled the globe and nobody has the will to pick it back up. An example of the latter is in the perfectly titled "Fear and Sickness" and one of the later tracks, "Distill".

Mandatory artsy "band walking into light" shot.
The quieter tracks are well placed to give you time to breathe, sit back, and lose yourself in. Once the heavier tracks kick in, Given to the Rising becomes a cacophonous wall of sound that crashes into you like a tidal wave. This is accomplished by relatively simple, low-tuned guitar riffs with dissonant leads passing over top. The leads are slow and methodical, bending in and out of tune, keeping your mind numb as Scott Kelly barks and roars at you through your speakers.

Production on this album is nothing to be ashamed of, with everything sounding nice and raw without dissolving into mush. At times (especially earlier on in the album), the vocals seem drowned out by the instruments. Whether or not this is a form of artistic expression or not, I don't know. As far as the instrumentation is concerned, everything is mixed nicely, without having any instrument overpower another.

There are a couple pitfalls with Given to the Rising that I've found. The first is that I can really only enjoy it when I'm in a certain mood. This may or may not apply to some people, but personally I won't ever feel like spinning this album unless I'm feeling all contemplative and deep. I don't know why. Whatever. The second downside I found with Given to the Rising would be it's lack memorable passages and songs. If someone put a gun to my head and told me to sing any song off of this release or they'd shoot me, I'd tell them to just pull the trigger. It's not that the music isn't good, it's just nothing sticks in my mind.

On a Playlist With: Agalloch, Shrinebuilder, Tool

Overall Score


Neurosis have made an album that I feel would be right at home in some people's collections, but not so much in mine. I can understand objectively how some would love the sweeping dynamics and style of music presented on Given to the Rising, and even though I don't dislike any of it, when it comes down to the bottom line, I don't really like any of it either. If this album was stolen from me, I wouldn't be too heartbroken over it. That being said, I'm still going to look forward for Neurosis' new album coming out in October.

That's all for now, folks!

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