Neurosis have made it a habit of striking chord after chord that are uncomfortable, unwelcome, and utterly intense. And nothing has changed. The intro to “Bending Light” from Fires Within Fires, the eleventh long-player from the band, is nausea-inducing, burrowing under the skin, an unforgiving itch that won’t go away. By the time Scott Kelly’s formidable scowl emerges, the itch has turned to a burn that grows stronger, more rabid with each passage. The bubbling low-end of “A Shadow Memory” provides some relief, a brief flash of hope, but the underlying discord isn’t far beneath the surface, furthered by electronic flourishes recalling a back-masked ode to the unholy, all colliding in a growing, ominous, and aggressive cacophony.
The beauty of desperation, a trademark of these road-worn gents, is captured in the disparate bridge that emerges midway through “Fire Is the End Lesson” like a welcome, albeit fleeting, breath of clean air, only to be replaced by aggression and bleakness. And so it goes for the remaining two tracks. An atmospheric blanket of cryptic melody sweeps away the monsters and shines a light on the true songwriting prowess of Kelly on “Broken Ground” before he leads the band headlong into the mire. It is his superpower, a strength that is often up against distorted guitars in the context of Neurosis but flows pure like a pierced vein in his solo work. The 10-plus minute album-closing “Reach” provides little resolution to the the exorcism that plays out on the previous four tracks. Oddly timed vocal harmonies flirt with unity and cohesion, but to no avail, and the emerging gurgles and sinewy currents serve as an unstable bookend to this sonic purge.
Fires Within Fires is far more than an album; it is an immersive experience that is unrivaled. Neurosis have an unholy ability to reach the heart and wring it dry, twisting out all the pain, anger, and feral emotion, and leaving them puddled on the floor long after the last notes have disappeared.
Fires Within Fires is out September 23 on Neurot Recordings. Pre-order it here!
SkullsNBones Rating (Out Of 5):