It has almost been four years since the release of Honor Found in Decay.
Since then, Neurosis have completed a number of tours, including their first one in Australia, as well as other things.
Now that their latest album Fires Within Fires has been released, will they stay aflame or be reduced to ashes?
Being their shortest album in a while (it’s almost forty-one minutes), Neurosis work hard to ensure that every minute is not wasted. The songs are quite lean, angular and direct, focusing more on their louder moments whilst keeping quiet passages to a minimum.
It does have some prominent quieter moments, such as the opening minutes of “Bending Light”, the short breather between heavy moments on “A Shadow Memory”, and the soft, but no less tense ending of “Broken Ground”. Whilst, as per the norm with Neurosis, they serve to give the songs more breathing space, as well as a contrast within the songs, here they feel much more more a part of the momentum of the song than usual.
Whilst Steve Albini’s work with Neurosis has provided their albums with an expansive sound, Fires Within Fires sounds quite dry and sparse (without sacrificing the space), benefiting the album greatly.
The guitars hit a lot harder in conjunction with the bass and drum, and Noah Landis’ effects sit quite comfortably among what everyone else is doing, accentuating various parts in each song whilst avoiding being buried in sound.
“A Shadow Memory” wouldn’t be as abrasive, the crescendo of “Fire is the End Lesson” wouldn’t be as frenetic and intense, and “Broken Ground” wouldn’t have as strong an ebb and flow as it does had Neurosis worked with someone else.
The vocals are quite harsh in comparison to previous releases. Part of this might be due to there being a reduced amount of clean singing, but it feels like Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till are going much harder than usual.
It works well with the guitar/vocal dynamic on “Bending Light”, as well as the interplay between Scott and Steve on “Fire is the End Lesson”.
It works incredibly well in “Reach”. Starting with clean vocals with a few harmonies over some quieter playing, after a lengthy period without vocals the song becomes quite full-on and almost monolithic. Scott re-enters, sounding just as driven as the rest of the band, matching the flow of the song without sacrificing power in his voice.
Fires Within Fires is probably the most direct, intense album that Neurosis have released in a while. It might not be a game-changer, but this is a band that has never been interested in trying to release an album that would be seen as one.
It’s not without it’s flaws, but overall, it’s a strong album.