It speaks volumes about Neurosis that “My Heart For Deliverance”—the centerpiece of its tenth album, Honor Found In Decay—is some of the best music the band has ever written. Sadly, it’s just as telling that the rest of Honor isn’t. Since finding its strength with 1992’s Souls At Zero, Neurosis has continually broken and reset the skeleton of metal, resulting in a string of records that perpetually reinvent the group’s fusion of brutality and atmosphere. Twenty years after the triumph of Souls, “My Heart For Deliverance” draws deeply from that source. Comprising 12 minutes of cosmos-scraping majesty, the song starts with the kind of grainy, hypnotic intro that Neurosis made famous, then opens up into a mythic vista of dissonant grooves, soaring choruses, eerie samples, and a chiming breakdown every inch as epic as Swans or Sigur Rós.
But where “My Heart” expands almost every element of Neurosis’ sound, the remainder of Honor is content just to coast. “We All Rage In Gold” opens the disc with its weakest track, a contraption of mismatched pieces—haunted-house synths, stiff riffage, and some of guitarist Steve Von Till’s least inspired grunting—that never cohere. “At The Well” fails to deliver on the twangy, reverb-soaked menace of its intro; instead it lapses into an unconvincing Swans pastiche, particularly regarding the crooned, Michael Gira-like vocals. Granted, Neurosis has solid ties with Swans, including a 2003 album recorded with Jarboe. Here, though, the mimicry is jarring—especially on the shaky “Casting Of The Ages,” which starts with a delicate passage of modal, near-medieval folk before kicking on the distortion and getting stuck in sub-Swans mode.
Two songs do bridge the gap between the lesser moments of Honor and the high point of “My Heart”—namely “Bleeding The Pigs” and “All Is Found… In Time.” The former flaunts some layered vocal interplay between Von Till and co-frontman Scott Kelly, not to mention a hypnotic yet walloping fit of tribal drumming, an old tool from the Neurosis kit that still chills the spine. And “All Is Found” manages to rise above the dullness with a supple, stomping prog riff and shivering keys that recall King Crimson and Goblin without sounding retro. But when “Raise The Dawn” closes the album with one of the band’s most generic, leaden drone-workouts to date, it’s a letdown. At its best, Neurosis’ music evokes ancient rhythms, futuristic rituals, and an almost pagan grounding in the pulse of the elements. Despite flashes of greatness, the uneven, unfocused Honor Found In Decay feels more like a placeholder.