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Neurosis | ‘Fires Within Fires’


What’s that cliché – ‘These guys don’t need any introduction’?

Neurosis certainly fit into that category after more than two decades of crafting a sonic presence and reputation that remains unrivalled but is still repeatedly copied.

In fact, it was earlier this year that Neurosis celebrated their 25th anniversary with a slew of special shows each side of the Atlantic.

It’s a sort of tenure bands dream about because even though certain albums are better than others, Neurosis have never once felt irrelevant.

But how do you maintain that relevance for so long?

With 25 years in the can, does a band like Neurosis look at themselves in the mirror and ask what’s next? Especially when each member has their own extra-curricular activity, how do you stay motivated and artistically driven? Where do you find that next challenge?

In 2012 the band released ‘Honor Found in Decay’ and it was arguably their best album of the 2000s. In many ways it served as an emphatic reminder of what an impactful band they can be after the five year gap following ‘Given to the Rising’.

Now ‘Fires Within Fires’ serves a much different purpose and that’s setting out Neurosis’ path moving forward.

Inviting

‘Fires Within Fires’ isn’t reinventing the wheel but it is taking the band down a slightly brighter path.

Sure, opener ‘Bending Light’ commences in very familiar tones with its hulky dense wall of guitars that are Neurosis’ calling card before winding down into whirring droning passages.

But the song is striking with one repetitive lyric, “peeling the skin away reveals the heart”, which feels like an omen for Neurosis as the band try to reveal a new facet of themselves. ‘Bending Light’ feels like Neurosis at their most inviting (or shall we say accessible) while never sacrificing any of the grit and abrasiveness that is their namesake.

At 40 minutes, ‘Fires Within Fires’ is short and terse by Neurosis standards. This succinctness makes the album go by like a breeze. It also shows another depth to Neurosis’ character where they’re fitting everything they want to say into a tighter space (more on this in a bit).

The familiar density of the Kelly and Von Till’s guitars feel particularly devastating as a result but the band still knows when to let something breathe and sink in, like the more languidly-paced ‘A Shadow Memory’ where the band are at the most brooding, a la ‘The Eye of Every Storm’.

As the record progresses though, we gradually see Neurosis stepping further and further into the light, and the atmosphere takes a noticeably brighter turn like ‘Broken Ground’, which starts in pensive climes before erupting into a crushing yet oddly-ebullient riff, which briefly reminds these ears of their peers in Isis at their most towering, circa ‘Oceanic’ – an odd reminder considering how much Isis borrowed from them.

The next 25 years

Closer ‘Reach’ is a similar slow burner with a gentle and embracing sombreness that plucks from Kelly’s most recent solo material before eventually exploding into another deafening crescendo, which then… just ends. Out of nowhere.

It’s an abrupt conclusion to the record and goes back to its running time. In a way Neurosis pull the rug out from under you with ‘Reach’, leaving behind a sense of longing for more.

It may backfire for some fans though. It leaves a sense of incompletion, maybe like something was missing. It doesn’t detract from the quality of the album in general but the ending still feels puzzling.

Furthermore, ‘Fires Within Fires’, unlike its predecessor, seems more like a collection of songs rather a complete suite of music. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but rather an indication of the album’s different approach.

Is it Neurosis’ best post-2000 album? Not by a long shot. But it’s the best album the Neurosis of 2016 could have made. It feels like the foundation for a new era. The next 25 years, dare we say?

3.5/5 – Jonathan Keane ::: 29/09/16



8 Comments
  1. 30th anniversary big lad, 30th

  2. Well that’s embarrassing.

  3. On first listen last night, I found I suddenly and genuinely clued in to the album on the third song. Which is when it gets more slightly left of field and uplifting,in terms of Neurosis I mean. Will give it another go soon. Think I’d prefer them to go be going down that route at this rate because the more familiar sounding songs aren’t as interesting. Another example of this is My Heart For Stones on the last album… savage tune and a little less ‘typical’ sounding, imo.

  4. My Heart For Deliverance that is… :/

  5. strong reaction Says:

    30 years. Google would easily tell you that.

  6. Google and just about any metal publication. It’s pretty hard to miss that it’s 30 years.

  7. Can I just take this opportunity to remind the reviewer that it’s 30 years?

  8. 100 god damn years man, seriously…

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