Uneasy listening from post-metal pioneers.
Greg Moffitt 2010-01-18
When Oakland’s Neurosis first emerged onto California’s burgeoning hardcore punk scene back in 1985, no one could possibly have foreseen the bizarre, revolutionary trajectory that their career would subsequently take. After a couple of albums’ worth of decent but unremarkable hardcore/metal crossover, the band began a process of evolution and refinement which would take heavy music to previously unimaginable spaces and, in the process, shape what has thus far been metal’s definitive response to the 21st century.
As originators of the expansive, progressive and often apocalyptic sound of what we now know as post-metal, Neurosis have been incredibly influential. Both the Melvins and Godflesh unwittingly began to map a radical new future for metal several years earlier, but it was Neurosis who brought the disintegration of the old musical order crashing to a head.
Their sixth studio album, originally released in 1999, Times of Grace locates the listener at the very heart of the band’s development. The gradual abandonment of genre restrictions charted by Souls at Zero (1992) and Enemy of the Sun (1993) culminated in 1996’s colossal, crushing Through Silver in Blood. It remains a truly titanic piece of music and an overwhelming sensory experience which defied response. Times of Grace recognised the futility of attempting to follow its predecessor. The result is a step back from the brink and one step forward into the unknown.
Although Through Silver in Blood continues to receive plaudits galore, the self-awareness and lightness of touch increasingly creeping into the Neurosis sound arguably make Times of Grace the braver album. Replete with heaviness every bit as devastating as its belligerent brother, this album’s effortless ebb and flow and kaleidoscopic spectrum of eerie tones lend it a dazzling, cinematic quality. It is these traits – linear progression, light and shade, emotional depth – which have done so much to define the current state of the alternative metal art, however you label it.
This reissue comes bundled with a companion disc by the band’s ambient alter-ego Tribes of Neurot, simply entitled Grace. Both discs are designed to be played simultaneously. Grace itself makes for interesting if uneasy listening; together, the effect can be mind-blowing. It’s a journey that leaves the listener drained. Whether it delivers them into a darker or lighter place is for them to discover.