Four Lessons Neurosis Can Teach About Emotional Honesty

Four Lessons Neurosis Can Teach About Emotional Honesty
Photo: Tim Bugbee
Neurosis have been around for three decades and made 11 albums, yet they continue to defy easy characterization. The "post-metal" label they've been slapped with better defines bands that followed in their footsteps (Isis, Cult of Luna, Pelican). They've evolved from their early days as a hardcore punk project to one that integrated industrial elements and doom metal. On their 11th studio album, Fires Within Fires (out now on Neurot), their music careens between crushing and fragile, as gruff howls and tribal drums accompany repetitive arrangements of throbbing riffs.
This album marks the band's 30th anniversary, and represents cohesion of their older, more abrasive world with the newer, dark folk. According to co-founder, guitarist and singer Scott Kelly, emotional honesty and communication have shaped Neurosis in many ways since 1985. He tells Exclaim! how that emotional honesty has benefitted their vision.
It reinforced the band's decision to never move backwards.
"We recorded [Fires Within Fires] in December, and began practicing for the [April 2016] 30th anniversary shows in January, so we were simultaneously moving in both directions mentally and emotionally. I am interested to see how much, if any, the reflection back through the old material shows itself when we get to writing our next batch of songs. At the end of the last anniversary show, we literally walked off stage and were like 'I don't want to play that stuff anymore.' It was nice, and it was cool to do it, but we've never looked back.
Music is like a tide and you should let it take you.
"Fires Within Fires is a pretty concise record, certainly more so than [2012's] Honor Found in Decay. I think it's got a mean streak in it that's pretty strong, and I think that is all stuff that you can find in the earlier releases. The more you stay on this path, the quicker you are able to fall deep into a river, and let it take you. I think we did that this time.
I was basically just being pulled down this road and there was no interference, and these ideas just came through. And that's how this record came through. Everything came through really strong, there wasn't a whole lot of questioning over stuff, we all just kind of fell into our places with it, we figured out where we wanted to push things and how far we wanted to push them, and where we wanted to pull back, and how we wanted to layers things, and it all just kind of made sense. It was like this puzzle we'd been working on all these years and all of a sudden you just see the big picture.
They acknowledge a simple reality: less is more.
"Through Silver in Blood is a classic case of more equals more, and you don't want to go any more than that. That's what we decided. We wanted to pull layers back and really unveil what we were doing, because we felt like we were crushing a lot of the work that we had done, and a lot of things weren't audible or visual, from the amount of shit we were piling in. We started peeling stuff back around Times of Grace, and we've really done that every time. It really comes down to communication. You are trying to convey your emotions.
It's brought sorrow to the forefront, sometimes on stage.
"The sorrow that exists within us is strong. I don't want that to be misconstrued as me saying "my life is so fucking rough" cause my life is better than a lot of people. I've cried on stage, and I've had those shows where it all breaks down. Every one of us has had a night that's ended in a complete breakdown. But you know, if it's a good night, it's like a clean hit. You get through it, you feel better, and you feel like you've got a weight off your shoulders. Whatever the emotion you went through, whatever the feeling you got through, you come through it more whole than you were going in. But it's definitely quite a motherfucker."