posted on 9/2011 By:
By design, the music of Neurosis should not work within the confines of the EP format. Their success has long been dependent not only upon their ability to craft earth-shattering hymns of tectonic force, but also at shaping each album as more than the sum of its parts. Intro, interlude, and outro tracks – never named such of course – are expertly employed by these Bay Area stalwarts, gluing the main pieces together to form truly cohesive works. In short, Neurosis utilizes and requires every minute of the 60 or 70 they typically employ in a full-length.
This is precisely is why Sovereign has always been a curious slab of heft. At a “mere” 35 minutes (41 when adding the reissue bonus track), it shouldn’t have time to develop the way a normal Neurosis release does, and in many ways it doesn’t. However, the strength of the material, particularly “An Offering” and the colossal title track, helps to throw any format questions out of the window, making Sovereign yet another must-own release for any fan of this peerless act.
Originally unleashed in 2000, wedged between Times of Grace (which ended on the track “The Road to Sovereignty”) and A Sun That Never Sets, the EP largely fits the material of that era, and is partially constructed of vague re(pre)interpretations of songs from those albums. At that point, the band’s post-hardcore-tribal-doom uniqueness had eschewed some of the pure apocalyptic mayhem of Through Silver in Blood, but had not yet taken on the more serene tones of The Eye of Every Storm, or to a lesser extent Given to the Rising. But wherever Sovereign fits in chronologically, the slow crescendo, sparse guitars, and half-sung vocal harmonies in extended intro “Prayer” reveals the EP to be no one but Neurosis, and the rest works in kind.
As mentioned, the real meat here comes mostly from two songs. The first is “An Offering,” which builds on the momentum of “Prayer” and before offering true annihilation during its final two minutes (a section that I have no qualms admitting to being one of my favorites by the band). The other is of course the 13-minute mountain of a title track. After setting the stage for a few minutes with pulsating doom and ambient noise, the song kicks down the gates with one of Neurosis’ more infectious and memorable riffs, coupled with the tortured dual vocals of Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly. Several sections of thunderous dark-to-light-to-dark mood shifts eventually give way to a haunting piano and chanted vocal passage, which in turn gives way to a towering coda that connects the EP to Times of Grace. It’s a perfect finish to not only one of the band’s most accomplished compositions but also to the EP.
It’s then a bit of a mystery why the band chose to add an additional track to the reissue. To be blunt, “Misgiven” is largely useless, featuring a repetitive slow bass and drum pattern under growing feedback and noise for almost seven minutes. It’s an odd choice, as it adds yet another intro/interlude/outro-type track to an EP that already had a surplus. Perhaps Neurosis was attempting to give the release more of an arc similar to their full-lengths, but all they really accomplished was proving that their music is better suited to a wider scope.
So I guess the shortened format really doesn’t work as well for Neurosis. However, the minor faults that Sovereign exhibits can’t even begin to derail the music. The strong material here is strong, and utterly essential for all dedicated fans. Like all of their work, this transports the listener on an otherworldly journey, but just be prepared to get sent home a bit earlier than you’d like.
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Honor Found In Decay
Souls At Zero (Reissue)
Live At Roadburn 2007
Enemy Of The Sun (Reissue)
Given to the Rising
The Eye of Every Storm