It is always an event when Neurosis release anything, let alone their eleventh studio album. This record follows on from 'Honor Found in Decay' which was in my top 10 albums of 2012 when it was released. I might have been late in the game getting into Neurosis, but they have always released some fantastic albums and they are always pushing the boundaries of sound. Recorded with producer Steve Albini, who was also behind the desk for 'Honor Found in Decay' and is released through their own label. With the album being only five tracks long, you might think it is a short record - but it is still over forty minutes in length, so buckle in as it is going to be a noisy ride......
01 - Bending Light
From the very beginning, the band start their attack on the audience which a rumbling noise that loops and shifts. There are little lulls where the noise vibrates you and peaks where everything will sound like Titians are fighting for dominance around the world. I love the contrasts that the band design into their work, it is something that you can truly lose yourself in and it is a beautiful opening. It hits you when you least expect it to, it rises like mountains and it crashes like waves of sound over you as well. A beautiful and corrosive opening to this album, something that was to be expected and it is brilliant to hear as well.
02 - A Shadow Memory
Doom is the word that comes to mind with this song, it has that rumbling which gives Doom & Sludge metal its unique and powerful sound; the lyrics are spat out with such venom and power that it is almost empowering and a frightening experience in one smooth motion. With such textures and lulls, the band once again hold your attention throughout as they lay waste to everything around them. It never loses intensity or focus, holding your attention from beginning to finish.
03 - Fire in the End Lesson
This is quite possible to nearest that this album gets to a fast-paced song, it is aggression incarnate from the opening note and it does not let up from beginning to end. It is crafted from the same material which 'Water Is Not Enough' and 'Burn' from previous albums, without sounding like a rehash of previous material. It has a fantastic ending when the riff keeps on looping and building up, all the while there are strange noises and a guitar solo happening and it feels so intense and that is the thing - when Neurosis hit that intensity level, there is no one better and that is shown once again in this song.
04 - Broken Ground
All too soon, we are at the penultimate song of the album with 'Broken Ground' and it starts with an atmospheric and haunted opening that lets you settle a bit after 'Fire in the End Lesson'. It is over eight minutes in length and not one moment of that is wasted on you, not one moment is your attention or focus taken elsewhere. For this track, the band are in slow burning mode and everything takes an age to happen, something which is a little bit of a signature for the band. I like it when they are in this mode, it means that everything is gradual and it is always more rewards - this song does not disappoint you and it just keeps on give upon each play. It is such a good song, one that once again pushes the envelope again as only Neurosis can do, with a quite ending after the explosions and so many peaks it is a hard track to ignore (as if you would want to do that anyway).
05 - Reach
With a sound like flies and crickets in the back ground, 'Reach' starts with an apprehensive sound. If 'Broken Ground' took its time to get things going, 'Reach' takes even longer to reveal itself fully. The ten minute-plus song does not disappoint on any level, with each note, subtle shift and droning sound giving the listener shivers down the spine. It is a massive, gigantic noise that rumbles, explodes and it is sounds like it is going to go forever when it suddenly stops! It is an abrupt ending to say the least, but it is still fantastic song that brings down the curtain on this album.
Apart from the ending of 'Reach', this is album is a near to perfect as any other Neurosis album. Not to blow smoke up their collective asses, there is no other band like them out there and when they are at their best, nothing else matters in the world as they are all you want to listen to. It does end with a sudden jolt that sort of makes it feel a bit unfinished to be honest, hence why it is not getting the full marks. But it was as close to being the perfect Neurosis album as I have heard and it is their best work since 'The Eye of Every Storm' and that is as big a compliment as I can give this album. Basically, if this is not in my top ten of 2016, I will be very surprise and it will show how good 2016 has been for new music - an instant classic.
9 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost....
Top track - Broken Ground
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You can stream Fires Within Fires on Tidal here.