Neurosis | ‘Honor Found in Decay’
Unlike 99% of artists, I’d go so far as to say Neurosis have never made a bad album.
I’d imagine they probably never will either, their harnessing of the eternal musical yin/yang of beauty and horror being untouchable by any other band I can think of, bar Swans.
But the arrival of a new Neurosis album is always met with a combination of reverence and excitement that has – and I say this as longtime Neurosis fanboy – clouded any fair assessment of the contents. While the last few have been consistently good, I’ve found each of them eventually to be stowed away at the back of the collection, enjoyed at the time of release and for a short period thereafter, but not ones I’ve revisited.
They just haven’t captured my imagination in the way they used to over the last few albums, fine records though they may have been. The live shows have slayed me, but the records – not so much.
So to be honest, rather than feeling “Oh wow, a new Neurosis record” this time around, it was more “Oh, another Neurosis album”. I expected to enjoy it, but not to be overwhelmed. The fact that my expectations took a severe kicking was a more than pleasant surprise, because to me it feels very much like ‘Honor Found In Decay’ is their best album this century so far.
It is one that will happily be revisited time and time again, and that sits along some of their finest work.
There is a darkness and a fire present on ‘Honor Found In Decay’ that has been missing from the last few records. The loud/quiet/loud dynamic they’ve mastered over the years is a tool here rather than at the forefront this time, and it is mood and emotion that inform the dynamics of the album rather than any simple sonic trickery.
Noah Landis’s electronics and Jason Roeder’s drums feel better used on this record than they have been in years. Indeed the feel of the album overall is that it could be an older brother to ‘Enemy of the Sun’ – a lofty comparison perhaps, though it has an identity all of its own.
By now you may be familiar with opener ‘We All Rage In Gold’, a strikingly upbeat tempo opener for the band but about as far from being a pop song as the phrase “upbeat” might suggest – the post punk feel that drives it lends it a tense, brooding air and some of the most venom-filled vocals I’ve heard from them in years. We’re off to a good start. Similarly, “At The Well” will be familiar to many from its inclusion in their live sets in the last year or two.
This particular track is the classic Neurosis sound, all slow build and huge heavy crescendo and if I’m honest along with ‘Raise The Dawn’ it’s the most..well..let’s say the most over familiar sounding thing here insofar as both could have been on any of the last two or three albums, although the emergence of a string section at the close of the latter ends the album on a breathtaking note.
I just wished they’d used it for the whole song. This song is actually the reason I’m giving this 4.5 instead of the full 5 if you really must know.
But the magic in the rest of ‘Honor Found in Decay’ is that Neurosis have done something here overall that I feel the last few records didn’t. While retaining the hallmarks of their musical identity, they’ve expanded their pallette, and they’ve rediscovered how in using this they can engulf the listener in moments of quiet awe.
‘My Heart For Deliverance’ has one of these quintessential moments of magic where in its latter half, they deploy an other worldly sound to float over the band backing. I’m not 100% sure if it’s a reversed guitar, or some kind of pipes, it could be either (or both) – but it lifts an already evocative song to an otherwordly level.
‘Casting Of The Ages’, probably the most melancholic song here (and another highlight) adds a fuzzed out climax that feels like a dying sun imploding. And ‘All Is Found In Time’ is an alchemical melding of the various emotions and dynamics throughout the record into one glorious centrepiece. Acidic synths and tribal drumming bookend the song while it moves from their usual peaks and troughs in intensity into a psychedelic middle section throughout the main body.
There’s the word I’m looking for actually: Psychedelic. Don’t worry, we’re not dealing with any kind of flower power hippy nonsense here, instead we’re dealing with a black-altered state of contemplation.
Neurosis use their music as a gateway to exploring changing moods and emotions through sound, often our darkest ones. As a band who clearly make music for themselves first and foremost, they have produced an album here that engages the listener emotionally in a way that they haven’t in too long.
What I’m getting at in summary is that ;Honour Found in Decay; is special because it is a coherent, flowing album rather than a mere collection of the last few songs Neurosis happen to have written (a feeling which plagued the last two records).
All the mythology, the reputation of them being a band who overwhelm and evoke, it’s all here on this record again.
And the timing of its release couldn’t be better – in addition to having the perfect atmosphere for the cold dark Winter ahead, if we are actually headed for the world’s end like the doomsayers and misreaders of Mayan philosophy beg us to believe we are, then this angry, mournful record is the literal “soundtrack to the apocalypse” that only Neurosis can provide.
4.5 / 5 ::: Jamie Grimes :: 12/10/12