Published Jan 01, 2006"We've always gotten satisfaction from attacking our weaknesses," says singer/guitarist Steve Von Till on the dramatic increase and proficiency of melodies, moods, textures and, yes, actual clean singing on Neurosis's latest challenge to musical complacency, The Eye of Every Storm. "Our weakness for a long time had been the vocal element and lack of melody, and finding ways to incorporate those things. We haven't lost the intensity but we've found different ways to be intense. We keep the obvious in our back pocket now for when it absolutely cannot be held back."
In terms of legacy, few bands in the metal underground can match the influence of Neurosis and their universe-expanding (or world-destroying) musical cannon, unleashed over their nearly two-decade long career. Formed out of the Oakland punk scene in 1985, they've evolved from hardcore punk nihilists to spiritual advisors of the apocalypse. Along the way they released dense, experimental and terrifying records (Enemy of The Sun), established a legendary live show (an all-consuming exorcism of sound and projected visuals, both disturbing and serene) and founded a record label, Neurot.
But it was 2001's A Sun That Never sets that ushered in yet another new era for the ever-evolving band, pushing their previously reserved somnambulant melodies and softer shades of regret to the fore of their orchestrated metallic cacophony. In an interview for Metal Maniacs in the early '90s, Neurosis claimed to be out to "harsh everyone's mellow."
In 2004, with the release of their most restrained, layered and quietest endeavour yet, are Neurosis out to mellow everyone's harsh? "There probably is some of that, yeah," chuckles Steve. "The culture today is conditioned to the noise, the screaming and the heavy metal guitar; it's almost a joke that pop music sounds like that. We're rebellious by nature, we're coming from punk and take those values to heart - it's damn everybody, do what you want. We don't want to be pigeonholed; we don't want to be caught in something that is going to be yesterday's news."
After establishing Neurosis as a Mad Max-like touring tribe of nomads, playing hundreds of shows a year, all has been sadly quiet on the Neurosis live front for the last few years, save for the occasional festival appearance. "You have to earn a living to survive in the world and we never have with music," Von Till says. "We didn't want to start getting to 40 and have no jobs to come home to and not be able to raise our children properly. There was only so long we were willing to dig holes of debt and time." But rumours have been surfacing that fans will once again witness Neurosis live, if not on their previously marathon treks, at least in select cities. "We are going to try to play. We feel the itch; shit, we used to do it all the time. There's a physical release, a glory in it that we haven't felt in awhile and primarily, this thing was founded as being a live act and we need to get out there and prove that it still rings true."
Two decades of releasing continually relevant art and music is a nearly unheard of and momentous accomplishment for any band. The question is, with their 20th anniversary just on the horizon, is there a day when Neurosis might end? "Everything ends at some point, but we don't see it in sight. We've been through all the ego bullshit, all the personal crap. As long as we feel like making the music together, it's going to happen."