Review: Neurosis - Through Silver in Blood

Neurosis and their foray into atmospheric sludge is one of the best decisions taken by a band, however it clearly took effort to master it. A lot of the techniques used on Through Silver in Blood can be heard on Souls at Zero and Enemy of the Sun, - from the sampling, to the slow, sludgy, distortion of the playing and the murderous degrading quality to the whole sound - despite not being anywhere near fleshed out enough to capture an engrossing, complete experience in the same why that the following record did.

Through Silver in Blood is dark and gritty... its dark grittiness is best summed up by this performance at an old Ozzfest show of Locust Star (it's 240p, but that really doesn't diminish the incredible nature of it), the fifth song from their seminal 1996 album Through Silver in Blood. In the performance, the band play their instruments and growl the lyrics of the song in a frantic fervor - Steve Von Till's harrowing presence is backed up by his terrifying growls, Noah Landis goes ten rounds with his bass pedals that you'd usually see at the feet of a piano player, while Dave Edwardson's vocals on the final verse manage to strike down everything that preceded them: "The will to power, ascension, ascension manifest" he screams with the most menacing look on his face while he plays his bass.

On record, it all translates even better. The end to Locust Star is possibly the most powerful vocal delivery ever in Metal and it's only a tiny part of why Through Silver in Blood is one of the most frightening, fascinating, complex, rich and just plain heavy Metal albums of all time.

What Neurosis mastered with Through Silver in Blood is structure and variety - the album's tracks are paced and placed perfectly and the vocal samples are things of nightmares which contribute immensely to the overall atmosphere of the record. It's frightening at once due to the pounding drum intro that accompanies the screeching strings of the opening title track. Indeed, this can be attributed to Godflesh's Streetcleaner - those drums are reminiscent of the intro to Head Dirt - but Godflesh never created atmosphere like this. The title track's densely packed guitars bring with them a sense of impending doom, layer upon layer of unpredictability. Even when the track segues into its many subtly separate sections, there's always a sense that it could just as easily shift into something different. Something predictable. But that's the genius: it never does. It's the ultimate in maximum tension and minimum release. This all culminates in a hectic drum solo, like a overwrought version of the intro.

Speaking of release, the vocal-sampling lunacy of Rehumanize seems like a welcome break after the hysteria of the opening track. It's not. It's even more maniacal. The mysterious samples are placed on top of a back and forth static and an incessant hollow banging - it's industrial in more than one sense of the word and combined with the spiritual and philosophical nature of the spoken words, it creates a fascinating duality. It's almost like the samples were purposefully created to be used right here, and what's more is they're uttered by something like a warped Barack Obama.

Become the Ocean is even more frightening due to the incredibly curious and distressing vocal sample, sourced to an old book titled Human Survival and Consciousness Evolution: "We even ignited the first atomic bomb on the day commemorating the transfiguration of Christ thus unconsciously signalling that we intended likewise to transform the world not only after the light but after the darkness. With a blast that burned several times hotter than the surface of the sun." When it develops into a warped repetition of "Become the ocean", it leaves nothing to the imagination. In fact, when it then transitions into the mournful piano intro of Aeon, it's easy to identify the bereaving nature of it.

Together, Neurosis combine to create a record of seeming unity. Everything falls into place seamlessly; there are no cracks in the sprawling road and the tracks manage to be distinct without feeling disjointed. There's a warmth to the album, despite the cold, unforgiving nature of it. The first seven or so minutes of Strength of Fates are sparse, the echoes of the vocals travel for miles, but when the track flourishes into a barrage of growls in the substratum of the instrumentation, there's a relief because it felt like it would never arrive - when it does, it's incredibly difficult not to embrace it.

It has become a serial trope in Post-Metal these days. The tension and release theory mastered by Neurosis here is hard not to find even in a lot of the Progressive Metal bands today. Isis, Boris - heck, even Tool and Opeth. This record, however, is a meaty experience, it's a grower to the highest extent. That's what comes with perfecting a genre as challenging as the one it belongs to. Indeed, if Through Silver in Blood didn't invent the Post-Metal genre, it perfected it in every imaginable way and finding a more complete Metal record has proven to be nigh on impossible - in fact, Neurosis only came close once to the greatness of Through Silver in Blood and that was with Times of Grace, so if they themselves can't achieve it, it's going to be a hell of a job for anyone else to.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

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