The Masquerade, Atlanta, GA
There are some bands that burst forth from a scene and develop their own musical philosophy and style. In doing so, they influence other bands to greatness and cull a following that hangs on every release, every song, and every note. Such bands become legend, and NEUROSIS, love them or not, are.
A band that soon realized the crusty Hardcore scene and its trappings were too limiting for their ultimate vision, NEUROSIS nurtured and perfected a sound that has sophistication, heaviness and a depth that many strive for but cannot achieve. Fans allow themselves to be submerged in it; others disregard it as over-hyped, overwrought, and boring. NEUROSIS is not for everyone, but for those who “get it”, their music is almost a religious thing, and seeing them live is like going to church.
NEUROSIS is not a band of road warriors by any stretch. True to their approach to music – which is their way, not yours – they tour when their job and family obligations allow. So to see them live is special, not only because opportunities are few, but because there really isn’t any band like them live. Their stop through Atlanta was to demonstrate that even if you aren’t a fan, they have a power onstage and a sway over their fans that is impressive.
But before NEUROSIS took the stage, they had openers that more than primed the audience for them. NEUROSIS runs their own label, Neurot Recordings, and they had label signees U.S. CHRISTMAS (USX), start the night off. Sludgy, yet Bluesy, crunchy with hints of Folk, U.S. CHRISTMAS is, like NEUROSIS already has, forging their own sound. Vocalist NATE HALL alternated between hollering (in a good way) and clean vocals, while his guitar and the rest of the band painted an original sonic landscape. Of note is violinist MEGHAN MULHEARN, whose violin to U.S. CHRISTMAS is like SCOTT KELLY‘s guitar to his band; supportive, not flashy, adding depth and color. If you dig a slower stoner vibe with a Psychedelic bent you will like this band.
Next up was PRIMATE, a punkish ‘supergroup’ of sorts featuring KEVIN SHARP of BRUTAL TRUTH and Bill Kelliher of MASTODON. They took to the stage and immediately went full-throttle. It is always nice to see Bill Kelliher do his thing, and I dig PRIMATE’s sound, but they did seem out of place on the bill. On a night where the other bands had their raging sounds under tight control and there were very few stage gyrations and antics, PRIMATE’s performance was unbridled and wild. However, it could be looked at as a sonic break from a night full of Sludge!
Next up was RWAKE, another sludgy band with a twist that has managed to create something rather unique in a Metal world that has pretty much done and seen it all. Incorporating a Moog synthesizer and tandem screams from vocalists C.T. and B., RWAKE pummeled through a set that showed the musical synergy between its members. Some bands radiate a vibe, and RWAKE’s vibe was all business, rarely allowing the crowd to come up for air. Those who had not seen this band live before should have had a new respect for them. They were a great choice to be the band right before the mighty NEUROSIS.
First off, there is no just grabbing a NEUROSIS CD and expecting it to make sense on first listen. They are not that kind of band. If you like a band’s live performance to consist of flinging themselves all over the stage and pandering to the crowd, they will disappoint you. Their music demands your undivided attention; it makes you either submit to its complexities or annoy and bore the piss out of you with its mood swings, spoken word pieces and ambient passages. However, make no mistake; NEUROSIS is probably the heaviest band you will ever witness. Its sheer musical weight, as in real density, is almost tangible. Even the quieter moments stand on your shoulders, daring you to speak. The bass of DAVE EDWARDSON rumbled deep as he and his bright purple buzzcut undulated/ They were so deep into their own performance, keyboardist/sampler NOAH LANDIS cut his forehead while rocking out and seemed oblivious to it. And while they played, there was no one cheering out of place, no rampant horn-throwing, no moshpit, no chicks on their boyfriend’s shoulders getting their tits out. No. There was a reverence, a deep respect shown to the band to where it felt that it would have been rude – wrong, even – to do any of those things. The fans were there to absorb every note, revel in the perfect light show, allowing the voices of STEVEN VON TILL and SCOTT KELLY to resonate into our very cores. The band was perfect, with four songs of the set coming from their latest release, “Honor Found In Decay”. The set featured two songs from “Given to the Rising”, one from “Times of Grace”, one from “The Eye of Every Storm” and two from “Through Silver In Blood”.
Before you think that the crowd was half-asleep, that was certainly not the case. The energy pouring back and forth between the band and the audience was palpable. The crowd grooved and swayed, threw their arms in the air and sang along to the lyrics that spoke to them. We all headbanged in a quiet rhythm when the band dug in and ground out the heavy, and stood hushed on pins and needles when the slower, more pensive sections of music came around. It was all a build to the climactic performance that brought the much-loved and anticipated “Through Silver In Blood”, Neurosis’ 12-minute-plus sonic opus that plumbs the depth of rhythm, heaviness, dynamics and vocal power. VON TILL banged on some drums along with JASON ROEDER, while the crowd finally swirled and screamed in unison.
No stage talk, no song names, no band member intros and no encore. None were necessary. The enigmatic KELLY came back out and took a picture of the crowd, then slid into the backstage darkness with the rest of the band, leaving behind happy fans and others who were still processing what they just experienced. Neurosis proves that you don’t need to have fire, props or dancing girls onstage to make a great show; you just need to do what you do with such conviction and confidence that the audience can’t help but be fascinated. NEUROSIS is still on the road, so catch them while you can as we never know when they’ll come around again. If you’ve never seen them live this is an opportunity to witness something more than just another Metal show, and see the band that – for good reason – has influenced so many others.
Distill (Watching the Storm)
My Heart for Deliverance
At the End of the Road
Times of Grace
At the Well
Left to Wander
We All Rage In Gold
Bleeding the Pigs
Given to the Rising
Through Silver In Blood
Review by Lynn Jordan. Photos by Curtis Dunlap