To say Oakland, California’s Neurosis have been influential in the modern metal space would be a gross understatement. In fact, I have learned more about Neurosis’ signature sound by reading comparisons in reviews of albums by other bands than I have by listening to their actual music. Starting out as a hardcore outfit in the mid-80’s, they went on to help lay the foundation for what would become known as ‘post-metal’ in the early-to-mid 90’s. The current line-up is the same credited on every album since 1989’s The World As Law. These guys have been around for quite some time. Yet, my exposure is much more recent.
My latest exploration into metal started around 5 years ago at a Mastodon/Kylesa show in Boulder. Those two bands opened my eyes to the post-grunge world of metal — a genre I had given up on around the same time Neurosis were reinventing it not far from where I lived. I bought my ticket to that show off a guy in front of the Fox Theater and we ended up having a few beers before the show started. It was that guy who told me about Neurosis. The exploration had begun, but somehow the road didn’t lead to Neurosis until they released Honor Found In Decay in October of last year. The album, their first in five years, sounded like the soundtrack to a lost Cormac McCarthy novel. Digging back a little further, I realized I had been missing out on something amazing. There was something so disturbing, yet nourishing about what I was hearing — almost like an oasis in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. Maybe it’s just my reverse perspective, having started with the new material before working my way back through their body of work, but I found I developed an affinity with their post-9/11 material more than their earlier (more acclaimed) albums. For this reason, among others, last night’s performance lived up to all expectations. Neurosis doesn’t tour all that often, and a Colorado stop is rare even when they do, so last night was an almost religious experience for those who have been following the band for much longer than I.
Neurosis’ live performances are known for their visual aspects almost as well as they are for their music, but that all changed when Josh Graham decided to part as the band’s visual artist to pursue his career with A Storm of Light. Instead of trying to replace a member of the family, the band decided to forgo the light and video show on this tour. The 2013 Tour would be all about the music, which was immediately evident when the band took the stage in darkness. No lights. No video. Just the silhouettes of Scott Kelly, Dave Edwardson and Steve Von Till. The opening chords of “Eye” (one of the few track from the 90’s) were performed by shadows on the stage. It wasn’t until the inhuman wails of agony escaped through Kelly’s mouth that blue and pink lights lit the stage in a blinding flash. This set the tone for the evening. Nothing fancy, just an air of darkness for reflection in the long, crunchy passages, and white hot light to drive home the agony of vocal chord destruction. The whole thing was very calculated to achieved optimal affect. Neurosis would lull those of us gathered into a hypnotic state — a sea of heads rocking up and down as perpetual machines — only to wake us from our dream into the living nightmare of reality with tectonic riffs and howls of horror. No visuals were needed. The show was so intense that my body literally ached. You could actually feel the music just as much as you could hear it. Neurosis were performing songs for the deaf.
The more I think about the show last night, the fewer things I have to write. Like the Swans show at the Gothic, this wasn’t a performance that can be translated into words. It’s all about feeling. But if facts are what you want, then here are a few:
The band came on at 10:45 and left the stage at 12:30.
They played 11 tracks over that hour and forty five minutes.
Most of the material was from Honor Found In Decay and Given to the Rising.
The tracks performed saw both Kelly and Von Till take turns on lead vocals.
Not one word was spoken to the audience.
After “Times of Grace”, Kelly sprayed the crowd with a few bottles of water and then walked off the stage.
There was no encore.
No encore was needed.
Throughout the show I kept thinking that they sounded like Mastodon, or they sounded like Pallbearer, or they sounded like Baroness…and then I realized no, they sound like Neurosis. It’s everyone else who sounds like them. I just can’t believe it took me so long to learn this crucial piece of information.
My Heart for Deliverance
At the End of the Road
Times of Grace
Distill (Watching the Swarm)
At the Well
We All Rage in Gold
Bleeding the Pigs
Given to the Rising