Neurosis are a three-decade staple of thinking (wo)man's music, a band who inspire emotional hyperbole, who are both crushing and fragile, thematically and visually rich and constantly expanding their sonic palette.
On their 11th studio album, Fires Within Fires, you'll find little that strays from the realms they visited on their previous material — particularly their 2000s-onwards output — but that's in no way detrimental to the album. As per usual, Neurosis subtly and skilfully integrate elements from the post-metal genre they co-created, while continuing weave in elements of industrial, doom, punk and folk. The roaring vocals, bluesy crooning and huge riffs are here, as are the tribal drums and varying organ, piano and keyboard effects that conjure the oppressive atmosphere that makes the band so suffocating and oppressive.
What subtly sets the album apart from their previous release is the mean streak here. In comparison to 2012's Honor Found in Decay, the record is heavier, the band's anger more efficient and consistently applied, perhaps the result of the band members individually practicing early material in anticipation of their 30th anniversary shows this spring while simultaneously preparing to record new material. Regardless, it's a welcome shift following the delicate nature of their previous album.
"A Shadow Memory" oscillates from slow and crashing to thunderous and throbbing, while "Broken Ground" is similarly characterized by this ebb and flow dynamic. Of course, that's not to say the quiet, beautiful parts have disappeared entirely, either. Neurosis are at their most distinctive on album closer "Reach," courtesy of a bizarre opening riff that's cold and reverberating. Later, guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till incorporates his highest-register vocals to date, a welcome exploration into new territory that eventually triggers a sonic blowout as the song and album end explosively.
If you're a fan of early Neurosis who has a specific vision of their music — i.e., the hardcore Amebix-worship days of old (see Pain of Mind and Souls at Zero) or the raging, overladen-yet-brilliant industrial period (see Enemy of the Sun and Through Silver in Blood) — then Fires Within Fires will do nothing to bring you back into the fold. For those who've held on for the ride and enjoyed the band's descent into the heart of darkness, it'll be a welcome addition to your already massive collection of the band's many gems. (Neurot)