Founded by Scott Kelly, Dave Edwardson and Jason Roeder of hardcore punk band Violent Coercion, Neurosis seeded in Oakland California, 1985 as crust/hardcore punk in the territory of Dishcharge, Amebix and Chaos UK. Twenty-nine years later, with minor lineup changes and an extraordinary musical evolution, Neurosis are one of the most unique bands in heavy music, described by Isis’ Aaron Turner as ‘thinking man’s metal’ and with throngs of fans perpetually invigorated by the band’s mesmerising and cerebral landscape. Initially dropping quite cleanly into the category of hardcore/crust, even the band’s first album Pain of Mind (1987) has an undertow of more intricate ideas and an experimental lean, particularly with tracks such as ‘Black’ and ‘Self-Taught Infection’. Stylistically the sound tides organically and without jarring through Word as Law (1990) and the brooding and grisly Souls at Zero (1992) to Enemy of the Sun (1993) and Through Silver in Blood (1996), coinciding with Neurosis’ tour with Biohazard and Pantera. Following were Times of Grace (1999), A Sun That Never Sets (2001), The Eye of Every Storm (2004), Given to the Rising (2007) and five years later, the integral Honour Found in Glory (2012) – classified along the way as industrial, sludge, ambient noise, folk, shoe-gaze, post-metal and doom, all with a strong coherent spine of heavy experimentalism and mythic gravitas.
On the telephone from Idaho U.S.A., Steve Von Till speaks energetically about the origins of a music so unique and dynamic “The intricacies in the music come from really listening to what the music wants to speak through us. It’s not quite as intense as possession, but it’s a flow”. When asked about his grisly works of art in both written and painted form, creator of Hellraiser, Clive Barker describes the process of his expression as not so much a process with intent, but of compulsion. He describes the experience of getting stories and images down on paper as being driven before something, as an attempt to translate or get out of the way of something inevitably real. This idea of the almost possessed translation of dark, unfamiliar and yet undeniably real worlds courses irrepressibly throughout Neurosis’ music all the way from Pain of Mind (1987) to the most recent Honor Found in Decay (2012) “We try to let what we write come from a totally original place. We really feel that this music just kind of exists out there in the ether. When we were younger we were forcing it, trying to define the sound, to do whatever we could with that, but we always felt there was something deeper and heavier”. Many fans of Neurosis have described the experience of listening to the music even across the span of the band’s life to date as being a wholly new experience of music, one that is transportive to other states of mind, and a door that once opened, can never be closed. Similarly, the band themselves comment frequently that while they each put an enormous amount of meticulous attention into the creation of the music, that it is somehow more like making the right response, or attuning to what is already going on, than imposing a preconceived will onto the songs “There’s something that is unspeakable that happens when we’re together. We start to channel it, it feels like it’s a naturally occurring phenomenon, almost like the weather, like lightening or clouds and sunshine, and for some reason we were given the blessed opportunity of being together, and when the moment is right and feels right these things come through us and take shape that are really quite beyond our mental capabilities.” This reflects the evolving nature of the band’s releases – beginning in the 1980’s with the hardcore/crust style of Pain of Mind, and swaying gargantuan through the black seas of sludge, industrial, doom and tribal folk to their current release which is a moving synthesis of all that has gone before, while still being a new and wiser creature. Like the icon that is totemic to this band, the music is persistently swallowing its own tail, perpetually consuming and regenerating, without entropy. “We’re not trained musicians… but it’s a flow. Right from the centre of the earth and up through our spines and out through the speakers. I’ve always been interested in shamanic cultures and pre-Christian spirituality, I wish I could apply those kind of principles to the rest of my life, the only way I can do it in such a pure manner is just through music.”
The painstaking thrall in which Neurosis’ members compose the music and the songs that result, and the experience of the listener are indeed shamanic. Both are fundamentally compelled to tread the dirt of foreign places and return changed, wiser, more somber and definitely changed. Very excited to be bringing their current lineup of Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly on guitar and vocals, Dave Edwardson on bass and vocals, Jason Roeder on drums and Noah Landis on synthesizer/samples/keyboard to Australia for the first time, the band will play long sets of tracks spanning most of their arc from crust punk through sludge, industrial and doom, and with ten studio albums and five EPs hemmed by side-projects and collaborations to draw on, the live show is sure to be stunning.
Neurosis tour Australia throughout August:
Brisbane – Monday 4th August – The HiFi with Hope Drone
Adelaide – Tuesday 5th August – HQ with Space Bong
Perth – Wednesday 6th August – Capitol with Drowning Horse
Melbourne – Thursday 7th August – Corner Hotel with Clagg
Melbourne – Friday 8th August – The HiFi with Whitehorse
Sydney – Saturday August 9th – Manning Bar with Adrift For Days