Musical labels and genres, like stereotypes, almost always fail to deliver a precise and reliable picture of the object of their definition. More often than not, they become the victims of their own success and run out of meaning as soon as they acquire the benefit a larger audience. If we restricted our analysis to music, we could see how words like ‘grunge’, ‘punk’ and ‘emo’ often describe a historical context, rather than the music style they were due to describe. But as soon as we venture into the shady territory inhabited by sub-genres, we realise that the truthfulness of a definition is in inverse proportion to its popularity. ‘Doom’ is exactly one thing and ‘djent’ is precisely another. ‘Post-metal’ is Neurosis.
The prefix is there for a reason: it qualifies the major role bands like the Oaklanders had in the early 90s, when metal was in the middle of an identity crisis and was being driven underground by the Seattle grunge movement. Neurosis offered an escape route which betrayed their folk origins, expressed through a channel – hardcore – which was already in the process of morphing into sludge, crust and several other strains of metal.
Honor Found In Decay is yet another chapter in the process of decomposition of metal: the structure is fluid in its repudiation of the canons of rock and the contemplative mood is more reminiscent of Mogwai and Mono than it is of Cult Of Luna or Isis. The sound is so Neurosis that one can’t help but smile about Steve Albini silently accepting the band’s decisions in the studio. His fifth album with the group still shows no sign of the guitarist/producers’s raw, minimal approach to sound. After all, this is no Shellac or Big Black: it’s the sound of heavy psychedelics applied to sludge; an album whose dynamics often tend to take prominence over the songs’ own natural flow.
Honor Found In Decay is a compendium of everything that is Neurosis. The cacophonous digressions and the formulas which have influenced a decade worth of musicians are represented in their pure essence in tracks like the opener “We All Rage In Blood” or “Bleeding The Pigs,” but if you’re after some evolution in their sound, you have to look somewhere else.
There is a point in “All Is Found…In Time,” where you end up thinking you’re listening to Pink Floyd’s Live In Pompeii with all its epic sensuality and emotional torment. Or, if you listen close enough, you can hear Johnny Cash’s strumming his way into every single song at some point.
Guitarist Steve Von Till and bassist Scott Kelly know how to avoid clichés: one of the main aspects in their music – its unpredictability – remains a trademark of the band’s sound. “We All Rage In Blood” is a fine example of how Neurosis balance the quiet/noisy fragments of their music: the structure flows in ways that seem to be the only possible alternative to the boredom inflicted on their listeners by hordes of post-rock, shoegaze musicians. The undisputed heaviness of the band is now at its zenith; Jason Roeder’s percussive violence takes pains to erode whatever is left of any form of melody, while the doom-laden intensity of the album compensates for the acoustic departures.
With Honor Found In Decay we can’t really talk about evolution as the band that spawned Through Silver In Blood and Given To The Rising is back with an album which is quintessentially Neurosis. Sometimes things have to stay the same in order to change. Labels and stereotypes will have no choice but to adapt themselves accordingly.