Given to the Rising
posted on 5/2007 By:
Before actually discussing Given To the Rising, there’s something I should probably make clear: Neurosis are one of the few bands who have truly changed the way I listen to music. Their ability to experiment with form and style, express truly heartfelt emotion, and bring absurd quantities of the heavy to bear on listeners all at the same time remains more or less unparalleled in the metal community. This is to say nothing of their stylistic contributions to metal; the entire ‘post-doom’ (or whatever you call it) explosion of recent years, so frequently attributed to ISIS, traces its true roots back to Neurosis’ pioneering work on albums like Enemy of the Sun and Through Silver in Blood. Long story short, this band is a big deal, both to me personally and to the metal world at large.
For these reasons, I found myself approaching Given to the Rising with some trepidation. On one hand, I couldn’t help but thrill at the idea of a new album from one of my favorite bands, especially with guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till publicly promising that the new disc would be the heaviest thing they’d recorded since the 90’s. On the other hand, Neurosis’ influential discography and relentless stylistic expansionism saddles them with an impossible standard for creativity and quality, especially for a band who’s been around for well over twenty years. It’s my pleasure to report that these luminaries show no signs of aging on Given to the Rising; though the album is one of their least experimental to date, it’s also a return to the form first explored on some of their finest work.
Anyone who’s heard so much as a song from this album already knows that Mr. Von Till wasn’t lying; Given to the Rising is indeed the heaviest Neurosis album since 1999’s spectacular Times of Grace, and that’s fuckin’ saying something. This album is absolutely littered with the towering, apocalyptic grooves, with virtually every song containing at least a few of the band’s signature moments of monumental, universe-collapsing gravity. Neurosis again worked with legendary engineer and noise rock heavyweight Steve Albini on this disc, which initially worried me because their last Albini-produced effort, The Eye of Every Storm, was missing some production muscle in its rare heavy moments. Seems like both parties were on the same page this time around, though; this is definitely one of their best-sounding albums, with each instrument carrying either delicate sonic textures or ridiculous quantities of force, depending on the moment. The result is an album that’s far more metalhead-friendly than Neurosis’ more ambience-centered recent work.
In the end, though, it’s the songwriting, rather than the production or heaviness that distinguishes this album from its immediate predecessors. Where A Sun That Never Sets and The Eye of Every Storm documented loneliness and bleak existential agony, this album oozes with the dark, menacing psychadelica that made Neurosis’ name. “Fear and Sickness,” with its keening guitar work, hazy keyboard foundation and ominous tribal drumming, is a genius dead ringer for the Through Silver in Blood days, while the title track and “Water is Not Enough” strongly recall Times of Grace with their relentless grooves and howling Scott Kelly/Steve Von Till vocal tag team. Some of the sparse melodic sensibility and bleak pacing of the band’s last two albums have survived on slow burners like “At the End of the Road” and monumental closer “Origin,” but even these tracks conclude with insane, heaving doom climaxes. Of course, strains from throughout Neurosis’ history appear in almost every song, but none so obviously as on the stunningly effective “To the Wind.” The track opens with warm keyboards and surprisingly friendly post-rock guitar lines before launching into an equally surprising up-tempo melodic rock passage. Squealing background electronics foreshadow a sudden departure to a desolate, tense clean guitar duet, devoid of drums and bearing only Steve Von Till’s whispered incantations for company. The peace is broken by a shockingly guttural and phlegmy roar from Von Till just before the whole band launches into perhaps the most devastating musical peak on the entire album, complete with some truly impressive 20-30 second Von Till howls.
The sheer level of craftsmanship and emotional gravitas present within Given to the Rising make it a tough album to criticize. It is unquestionably a collection of great songs by a long-running band who as far as I’m concerned have never released a bad album, which is a huge accomplishment in and of itself. At the same time, this is perhaps the first time in Neurosis’ career that they have failed to move in a new direction. In light of the extremely high quality of this music, I have trouble really counting this fact against them. Neurosis as a band have always been upfront about their musical intentions—achieving personal satisfaction and catharsis through their music and leaving an indelible legacy—and Given to the Rising leaves little doubt that they’ve fulfilled that goal again. This disc is a perfect example of a hugely talented veteran band relying on their innate songwriting intuition and semi-religious mystique to produce a gorgeous, emotive, fucking thunderous metal album. Let’s hope they can keep it up for twenty more years.
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