Over 30 years Neurosis have become a band praised by the alternative musical intelligentsia, cited by many artists, as well as by people with really big beards, as a key influence. I’ve never really ‘got’ Neurosis, but ‘Fires Within Fires’ has gone some way to changing my mind.
Fans will not be surprised by the serving of mid-paced hardcore blended into a heavy, eclectic, albeit slightly low-fi, sound.
I initially found the tracks, some over eight minutes long, to be slightly stodgy and undynamic. Even the recording felt somewhat ragged, sounding like the band were recording live in a practice space rather than a studio. Ramping up the volume (always a good trick if you’re not sure) did something to banish this though, and on repeated listening the formula of Neurosis makes more sense.
The powerful ambient layering over rumbling dirge on ‘A Shadow of a Memory’ creates an immersive environment, drawing the listener in as ‘Fire Is The End Lesson’ rolling over you in waves of caustic surging sludge. It doesn’t hurt that vocalist Scott Kelly is a brilliant singer, bringing to mind the soulful, bitter-edged master Tom Waits. On ‘Broken Ground’ in particular, the rueful timbre of his growl gives the quieter islands sprinkled throughout the heavier mire of the track a touching, mournful beauty. Like a drunk in a gutter at sunrise.
I personally like these quieter passages more than the heavier parts, which sound a little too crude to me. Fans of the band though will be content with this integral sound, and even though a long way from the ecstasy some feel for this band ‘Fires Within Fires’ is a great, albeit short album that’s caused me to re-evaluate this unashamedly unique band.