Honor Found in Decay

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While it might be all too convenient to interpret the title of 2012's Honor Found in Decay as a snide comment on the rise and fall of post-metal -- a movement that Neurosis in many ways prophesied and then outlived -- things are never that simple, obvious, or easily motivated by external forces for the legendary Oakland-based ensemble. Instead, all Neurosis appear willing to divulge about their tenth studio full-length's titular theme is that, as all things in life inevitably decay, one can only try to face the inevitable with honor -- in their case, through the language of music, naturally. So let those who hath understanding reckon the deeper meanings behind this particular song cycle, and while they're at it, why not figure out the secret behind the band's surprisingly fruitful relationship with engineer Steve Albini, which is going on five albums now. On the surface, Albini's notoriously Spartan recording ethics seem totally at odds with the densely orchestrated sonic architecture perpetrated by Neurosis' six-headed hydra, but somehow it just works! Especially on this occasion, as the clear instrumental separation in Albini's mix casts revealing spotlights upon the band's increasingly nuanced material, which offsets the lingering hardcore/metallic-born cacophony of yesteryear with broader dynamics than perhaps ever before. Noteworthy examples such as "We All Rage in Gold" and "My Heart for Deliverance" culminate their familiarly lengthy developments and violent contrasts of force and frailty via wavering, theremin-like melodies; the spacy psychedelic swirl dominating the second half of "All Is the End" shows the subtle atmospheric refinements of a Pink Floyd; and the tribal percussion of "Bleeding the Pigs" (somewhat reminiscent of 1994's Enemy of the Sun LP) only takes charge after fighting its way through curious seasick synth chords. What's more, years ago one would have never dreamt of hearing such delicate, emotionally exposed vocals from Neurosis, as on "Casting of the Ages" and "Raise the Dawn" (among others), and that's obviously another sign of the group's ever changing and maturing songwriting perspective. In sum, if there is in fact honor to be found in the planet's unstoppable decay, then Neurosis are just the band to soundtrack it, and nothing here indicates they won't continue to rank among progressive music's leading explorers, well beyond those temporal musical fashions discussed earlier.

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