Think of some bands that have been around for 30 years. Now narrow that list down to those that are still any good. In this light—and so many others—Neurosis is exceptional. From its undeniable influence upon post-metal, to the band’s founding of a record label that’s time and again changed the musical landscape, Neurosis has one of the most profound legacies in music. Fires Within Fires is another evolutionary step forward.
Befitting the three-decade milestone that the LP marks, Fires Within Fires stirs together elements from each stage of Neurosis’ multifaceted career while also exploring new territory. The wise drone of “Bending Light” crafts a narrative of a broken wanderer looking upon his past with melancholic pride. But from this plateau, the haggard character can’t help but muse on the ever-present negativity of the world—a turn in the story that Neurosis creates with slithering guitar notes and oozing synth. These sounds mutate into a quiet reinterpretation of the song’s opening section, which quickly falls under the attack of a volley of syncopated sludge. As with the changes from delicate to abrasive on Through Silver In Blood, this move emphasizes stark juxtaposition rather than functioning as a hand-holding arc.
Moving with the pagan churn of A Sun That Never Sets, “A Shadow Memory” awakens the reptilian portion of the brain, while “Fire Is The End Lesson” is an exercise in internal warfare. Noah Landis’ wind tunnel noise erodes the foundation of Jason Roeder’s drumming and Dave Edwardson’s bass, and Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly shout in conflicting rhythms. After regressing into a painful trudge, most of the band remains chained to this harrowing progression as one guitar explores a competing riff that eventually becomes the track’s center.
“Broken Ground” initially finds Neurosis inhabiting an unusually dreamy and optimistic sonic space. Von Till croons like Johnny Cash with a throat full of antifreeze, with his and Kelly’s guitar notes shimmering underneath. An ominous bridge then carries the band into a groove that swirls with the indifference of a riptide. Throughout this song, Landis’ sounds loom, finding form in abrasive noise as well as unsettlingly beautiful, flutelike notes. “Reach,” the final song, starts with synthetic sounds that flit like diseased tadpoles and a hair-raising guitar melody. Much of the song wallows in quietude until, eight minutes in, the band introduces a flesh-eating virus into the environment.
Fires Within Fires is yet another invaluable contribution from this legendary band. Someday, Neurosis will cease to exist as an active group, though that’s likely far in the future.
Purchasing via Amazon helps support The A.V. Club.