Fri 14th January 2005
OK so to begin with I have to declare an interest. I am a massive fan of Neurosis, since I first heard album before last, A Sun that Never Sets, which sneaked up on my subconscious and made me realise something very different was going on here.
So the question was, would the huge force nine gales of doomy yet uplifting rock I experienced on the albums be delivered live? Well the first thing you have to get over when you've waited years to see a band and they decide to only do one gig in your country is the hundreds of people who also want to come to the gig for some reason. And they all want to walk past me. Sorry this is a minor gripe but I guess I expected with it being Neurosis that there would be some kind of religious devotion that caused everyone to be rooted to the spot. But no - even this overwhelming, otherworldly music can't compete with bladders and the inevitable pull of the bar - that ultimate god. No I'm not some lecturing straight edger, I'd just like to be able to watch a gig uninterrrupted for once!
So what about the bloody music, I hear you cry. Well they strode unassumingly on stage after an interminable wait (that slightly overdid the 'anticipation build up window') and launched into 'Left to Wander'‚ from current genius album The Eye of Every Storm. And it was as ever with Neurosis - a fairly subdued start, no rock shapes, no guitar wankery, just a graceful, glacial groove (after the tribal drum start) that builds into something furious and beautiful. And as ever they sneak up on you - like a storm it builds slowly and eventually takes you over. Before you realise it they are three songs in and half an hour has gone by, you are just sucked into the storm they create, like a helpless ship, but somehow it's the most enjoyable thing imaginable.
I think what I love about them most is that the sound they create, with relatively simple ingredients - drums, bass, two guitars, gruffly soulful vocals and keyboard samples - is the closest thing to a force of nature out there.
They really do sound like waves hitting rocks or a wind blowing outside at night - that kind of scary yet alluring power that makes you want to go and stand in the centre of it. And when they really kick in, the overall effect is something akin to experiencing symphonic classical music, despite the fact that the individual elements are clearly rock guitars and men shouting.
Excuse me for waxing a bit lyrical but Neurosis are one of the few bands that evokes such an emotional response while being so 'metal' in their basic make-up. It may be the way they strip everything down to the basics music-wise and begin from there that gives them the purity and organic-ness‚ that is so attractive and refreshing. They execute every note flawlessly tonight and despite the sold-out squash endured in the crowd, everything hits home - warm and involving, yet heavy as hell.
The crowd lap it up as you'd expect with this being the band's first time on these shores for several years, and even give Jarboe (ex-Swans -probably the only other contenders to Neurosis' 'doom-core' crown) a fair hearing. This is despite her towering presence being far more arty and arch than Neurosis' workmanlike delivery. Her four-song segment, placed in the centre of the set, provided a good break in the proceedings (two hours for nine Neurosis songs, roughly), but the apparent constructedness of this section seemed to contrast a little too much to be considered part of the set as a whole.
Neurosis treat us to greats like 'The Last You'll Know' (whose breakdown section contains some of the most moving heavy music you'll ever hear). Other highlights include stomper 'Locust Star', an incredible growling 'From the Hill'‚ and lastly, the closer 'Stones from the Sky', which together with the great video backdrop provides the most simultaneously rocking yet emotional finale imaginable.
Ever been to one of those gigs where you emerge afterwards and do a double take, as if you're not quite sure if it could have been that good? This was one of those.