It requires time and patience to fully comprehend, but that is a small price to pay.
It's been said before, but Neurosis' career trajectory defies all known logic. For over 20 years the Bay Area titans have stood at the forefront of innovation in heavy music, displaying the kind of vision and creativity that most bands can only dream of. The sense of scale conveyed in their music is unparalleled; their influence on today's music scene, incalculable. And while fellow 80s survivors such as Napalm Death and the Melvins have suffered a fair few slip-ups along the way, Neurosis' quality control has never once gone awry, with every new release rightly heralded as a masterpiece in its own right. Clearly, album number nine has a lot to live up to. So, then, does it make the grade?
Does the Pope shit in the woods?
If 04's 'The Eye Of Every Storm' saw the quintet expanding their textural palette, traversing vast sonic vistas and gazing into the infinite horizon, then 'Given To The Rising' is the apocalyptic soundtrack that kicks in as the sky turns black and the ground crumbles away underfoot. The folky flirtations of their last two full-lengths have fallen by the wayside, clearing the way for a harder, darker, altogether more destructive energy.
But while it's undoubtedly their heaviest record since 99's 'Times Of Grace', this should not be construed as some misguided attempt to turn back the clock and relive past glories. Rather, it's the culmination of everything Neurosis have learnt over the years, fusing the primal aggression of their earlier work with the advanced dynamic sensibilities of the new.
The opening title track drops you right in the thick of it, with massive sludgy guitars, swarming electronics and Scott Kelly's pseudo-growling vocals coalescing into an oppressive wall of sound, which is then knocked down to make room for Noah Landis' ethereal, almost Zombi-esque keyboard tones. For nigh on nine minutes it swells and subsides, building up to dizzying peaks before collapsing in on itself. It's a formula many younger bands have sought to emulate, but here Neurosis reclaim it as their own.
The rest of the album follows a less well-worn path, with the initially slow-burning 'Fear And Sickness' erupting into a maelstrom of thundering percussion and jarring noise-rock guitar abuse that seethes with an intensity not heard since 96's 'Through Silver In Blood'. 'At The End Of The Road', meanwhile, begins life as a desolate soundscape of flickering noise and muffled vocals that churns along nicely until a catastrophically huge riff crashes down like a cast iron meteorite, bringing with it mind-bending electronic emissions and instructions to "deflower the nature of light". Eep...
Atmosphere, tension, and raw human emotion are the cornerstones upon which Neurosis have built their career, and 'Given To The Rising' possesses all these qualities in spades. Totalling 70 minutes of epic psychedelic delirium, it requires time and patience to fully comprehend, but that is a small price to pay for a record of such limitless depth and indomitable presence.