Neurosis - Fires Within Fires
Released 23/09/2016

Neurosis - Fires Within Fires Progenitors of an entire sound (post metal if you will, although I dislike that term) Neurosis are now the grandfathers of that scene with many bastard offspring influenced by their music. Go back millions of years to when the earth was in flux. A time of earthquakes, volcanoes, molten lava and meteor strikes. This is when Neurosis were born; forged out of the primordial chaos and noise, and with Fires Within Fires this is where the band have returned.

Neurosis have never been a band content to make the same album twice. Compare the glacial majesty of The Eye Of Every Storm with the dark industrial clank of Through Silver In Blood, the eclectic glide of Given To The Rising with the feral aggression of Times Of Grace. And this album is no different. After the expansive Honor In Decay the band appear to have regressed to progress, returning to their prehistoric origins. This album is dense, claustrophobic and very, very heavy. Like the event horizon of a black hole Fires Within Fires crushes everything, sucking in all around it and spitting back out anger, hatred and noise.

The album opens with the cacophony of drums, swirling keys and huge riffs that introduces Bending Light. This instantly lays down the template for what is to follow, although the track soon slows into a gorgeous, spooky, horror film style sound. No one creates music with such graceful ebb and flow as Neurosis and Bending Light slows almost to an acoustic whisper before exploding in fury with the vocals buried underneath a vast blanket of noise. This track ably demonstrates that every piece of music the band lay down is a journey. The music twisting, turning and writhing at the hands of its masters, building and building, and then releasing the spring-tight tension.

Ushered in on a weird keyboard buzz A Shadow Memory’s slow, gentle, acoustic strum soon gives way to tsunami of sound. The rasping vocals are much clearer here as they rise out of the noise on the crest of a wave. The song regresses back to echo the acoustic start before crashing back down with huge slabs of noise like waves breaking against an ancient shore. The band slip seamlessly between the two as the song progresses with stabs of keyboard and guitar cresting the surface.

Fire Is The End Lesson is an exercise in rhythm with the keys echoing the riffs which swirl and eddy as Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly trade vocal lines. The already intense music grows even more so before breaking suddenly, slowing interminably half way through, then rising again on pulses of Noah Landis’s keys and a squalling guitar which swamp the songs last vocals.

Broken Ground starts so gently, caressing your ears with it’s languid rhythms and crooning, southern-fried vocals which send shivers down the spine. The song builds slowly but inexorably as the pounding riffs take over. Again strange, discordant sounds break through the sludge before revisiting the gentle opening section. Neurosis manage the sturm and drang of their music so well. Nothing sounds forced as the band move from a roar to a whisper and back again, sometimes in the blink of an eye. The band are masters of their craft.

And so they should be after so long but Neurosis have managed to avoid stagnation. Steve and Scott seem to have an endless supply of brutally effective, highly creative riffs and leads. They are ably supported by Noah on the keyboards who uses a marvellous range of sounds which add colour, texture and melody to the maelstrom. Dave Edwardson on bass and drummer Jason Roeder create foundation thick as black treacle and as hard as concrete over which the rest of the band weave their magic. As with all Neurosis albums, the lyrics are like mystical poetry, all meaning hidden behind veils of unintelligibility. I have no concept of how songs such as the five contained on this album are birthed. It sounds like it could and should be a painful process but Neurosis seem to manage with ease to bring Fires Within Fires kicking and screaming into the world. There is anger in these songs and this album sounds like a release of that fury.

This album is just over 40 minutes long so we soon arrive at the final song, Reach. Beginning like a funeral dirge this ten minute track slowly hauls you towards the end. A whispered vocal duet gives power to the plaintive lyrics as the song slows to a terminal crawl. An echoing guitar chimes beautifully as the band show such great restraint, refusing to speed the atmospheric song up just for the sake of it. You know it will eventually come but you just don’t know when. There is such power in Reach’s mournful melody which is strung out to breaking point. And when it does break, the wailing, grinding guitars propel the song towards it’s oppressive climax as the song collapses under it’s own weight leaving us with one word, the songs title “reach”. Despite it’s relatively short length this album leaves you emotionally wrung out and breathless. There’s almost a feeling of relief that there’s no more!

As ever the album has been recorded by the legendary Steve Albini who, as usual has captured the power and elegance of this towering band, which is no mean feat. There’s an air of claustrophobic anger about the music presented here. Dense in the extreme, there is still a huge amount of light and shade and those lighter, atmospheric passages bring great relief from the bludgeoning power of the band in full flow. Artwork is minimal but stylistically is in keeping with previous releases and the booklet contains credits and lyrics accompanied by Thomas Hooper’s artwork.

After thirty years making music it is gratifying to know that there is still a passionate fire burning within the band that has enabled them to produce one of the heaviest, most intense albums of their illustrious career. Long may that fire continue to burn.

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