Neurosis’ 11th studio album Fires within Fires comes on the heels of the band’s 30th anniversary and follows the highly acclaimed 2012 album Honor Found in Decay. There seems to be a lot riding on the new release; it’s as much a celebration of longevity as it is an album. Fires within Fires is a marker on the road of one of the most influential bands of the past three decades. It also happens to be their best and rawest album in years.
Neurosis has always been a band of contrasts, relishing in soft, open moments just as much as they do the heavy, chaotic riffs. This juxtaposition is on display throughout Fires within Fires, but it’s more immediate than it was in previous albums. Songs don’t build like they did in Honor Found in Decay, instead hitting with thunderous intensity that slips away into atmospheric hollowness and then back again with pummeling force. The light and dark of Fires within Fires are at battle throughout the record, fighting for your attention.
Though five tracks long, Fires within Fires still clocks in at over around 40 minutes. Each song is a monster, thick with some amazing guitar, drum , and bass work. On the whole, the album focuses more on instruments than it does the ambient samples. The guitars sound especially amazing and they carry the weight of the record. That tone and focus on the guitars helps make this the heaviest and rawest Neurosis album in a long time, and we all know heavy and raw is always a good thing.
Tracks like “Broken Ground” and “Fire is the End Lesson” are riff-fueled stunners, forcing you to pump your fist and bang your head—the album is a return to the days when Neurosis went all in for this level of driving rock. It’s both a tribute to the band’s past and a whole new outlook on their future. The whole thing feels a lot like the spiritual successor to Times of Grace, an album that many still consider to be the band’s best.
When it comes to any Neurosis album since the late ’90s, you can’t ignore the contributions of engineer Steve Albini. The sound that is captured on Fires within Fires is largely successful thanks to Albini’s no frills recording. There’s nothing overdone or overproduced on this record; it sounds like Neurosis is playing right in front of you.
Few bands can do what Neurosis does. It’s easy to hear why they’ve managed such a great degree of influence on a whole generation of hardcore and metal bands. With Fires within Fires, they once again prove that they belong on top. If you’ve never listened to a Neurosis album, feel free to start here. If you, like me, are a longtime fan, prepare to fall in love with this band all over again. This is a band at the top of their game, out-moving, out-thinking, and out-playing everyone of their peers. In darkness and in light, Neurosis reigns.
Rating: 5 out of 5 burritos.
Benjamin Bailey writes for the Nerdist and can be found on Twitter talking about Godzilla, comic books, and hardcore music.