NEUROSIS – My personal history of…and show review
In the summer of 1989 I had just graduated high school and was back in New York visiting my Grandma. She always liked to hit the malls and I would use that time to peruse the record stores. On this particular trip we were at the Jefferson Valley Mall in Westchester County and I, like usual, was looking for music. This was back in the days when you bought records based on the logo, the cover art, the pictures of the band and maybe even by what shirts they were wearing or stickers might be on their gear. There was no internet and you didn’t have the luxury of checking out a band before taking the leap. As fate would have it the album I picked up that day was ‘Pain of Mind’ by some band called NEUROSIS. It kicked ass.
When ‘The Word as Law’ came out about a year later I came across it pretty quickly and was excited to see another album by this band. Already their sound was starting to morph a little but it wasn’t that far from the debut release. The track ‘Double Edged Sword’ was my favorite off that album and still gets my blood pumping today. Although NEUROSIS had made it to Denver in 1990 I missed it. Thankfully it wasn’t long after that they came back, ‘SOULS at ZERO’ wasn’t out yet but was coming out soon as most of their set list was composed of tracks from that album as well as a few select tracks from ‘The Word as Law’. Everyone was yelling out ‘Black’ wanting to hear this classic track from the ‘Pain of Mind’ album. After the show I had to opportunity to chat with the bass player Dave and he informed me that they didn’t play anything off of that album anymore. They were embarking on a new journey and that saw them in the present, not dwelling in the past. I think a lot of my friends at the time kind of drew a line right there. They weren’t ready for the new sound and were just as content to go back to spinning their EXPLOITED records.
When ‘Souls at Zero’ did come out I recall being one of only a few of my friends that really embraced it. I’ll admit though that I didn’t quite get it at first and after several plays it finally “clicked” and I was sucked in. Something special was happening and I was in on the ground floor. I want to say they came back to Denver again on this tour, I thought I saw them at the Mercury Café twice. I was in my early 20’s and things were a bit foggy back then…
I had taken acid for a couple of days and was kooking out pretty hard before the NEUROSIS show at the Aztlan Theater. A few of us made the trip over the mountains to catch NEUROSIS on the ‘Enemy of the Sun’ tour. The bill was filled out with SLEEP and ANGEL HAIR. It was during SLEEP that my partied out body gave out and I just keeled over…Like the Nestea plunge, I slammed hard into the floor. It took a little while but by the time NEUROSIS hit the stage I was back on my feet and ready for the trip they were handing out. By this time the band had added the visual projections and minds were blown. Most of us had never seen anything like that. The BUTTHOLE SURFERS did some visuals but not really on this level, they mostly just showed movies.
Ironically my ‘Enemy of the Sun’ LP was destroyed by the sun years later. I had moved and didn’t really take into account the angle of the sun in this new room and the sun cut right through the lid of my turn table melting my record right where it lay. Imagine me, after I got home from work, trying to figure out why my record was right where I safely left it but now it was all warped to shit! What the fuck?!!! It took me a few days to figure this one out. It wasn’t until the weekend when I was able to catch the sun doing it’s thing. Damn! Oh well, I was stoked for the vinyl reissue a few years ago…
A few years later I was lucky enough to catch NEUROSIS with GWAR and BRUTAL JUICE again. I suppose this was in support of ‘Through Silver In Blood’. The visuals had really been perfected by this time and were super heady and complimenting of the music. Over the next decade or so it could be pondered that they started to distract from the music and became an attraction unto themselves…I think NEUROSIS only came back to my neck of the woods one more time with PANTERA and then the Queen City of the Plains hit a dry spell and wouldn’t see the experimental, noise/metal gods for another 15 years.
I’m a huge NEUROSIS fan and with the new album, ‘Honor Found In Decay’ ranking amongst my favorites of their expansive catalog I was in a bit of a bind. I had to experience this shit live! But alas, they don’t tour…Knowing that they only play a few select shows a year I arrived at the fact that I would have to fly somewhere to see them and this was the year I was going to do it. I couldn’t hold back, I had to get in front of them and bear witness to their evocation of musical spirituality. My very soul NEEDED it! I started seeing a few shows had been announced and was set to pick my city for my sonic mission when lo and behold there was a Denver date!!! FUCK YEAH!
Ok…Enough setting up. Lets jump to the show.
I didn’t catch the first opening band and the second one was boring as a shit in a library stall. But it made for great background music as the crowd mingled and long lost friends were reacquainted. This was surely one of those shows that brought everyone out of the woodwork. There were more familiar faces than I had names to attach them to and often a nod of the head and smile served as a greeting between dudes that only recognized the face. But there were also the full scale bro-downs and hugs and shared beers as friends rejoiced that they were going to be together for this amazing event. In a crowd of aging crusties, metalheads , old school punx and beardoes the shout out of the night goes to the worn out dude in the weathered ‘Souls At Zero’ tour shirt and ragged denim jacket with the LOGICAL NONSENSE backpatch. Fuck yeah dude!
There were chants of “NEUROSIS, NEUROSIS, NEUROSIS!” as people could no longer contain their excitement. The anticipation was high (and so was a lot of the crowd) and the tension was as thick as a Bay Area fog as the NorCal power merchants hit the stage with the force of a locomotive plowing through a stalled out automobile stuck on the tracks. The band was fucking EXPLOSIVE!!!!and yet as gentle as a baby lamb…Only to erupt again in and explosion of angst and power. As I watched them with my drawing drooping to floor I thought to myself that maybe the only other band to use the heaviness so effectively against the more melodic and softer moments was the gods themselves…BLACK SABBATH.
I knew going in that they were no longer using the projections and visual graphics and upon hearing that news I was more than a little disappointed. But after seeing this awesome display musical armageddon it was more clear than ever that they were not needed and as I mentioned earlier were maybe even a distraction. With the flashing images you had nothing to set your gaze on but the esoteric rockers. Like a lot of us in the crowd there was less hair and teeth, but more belly and the lines of hard living. NEUROSIS are the real deal and live real lives and other than being musical wizards they are like you and me. Having come up in the hardcore and punk scenes they have already lived through and witnessed more than most people ever will. Their music draws on these tales of sorrow, loss, despair and even joy. It take the raw emotion and eloquently y weaves these experiences into musical tapestries. Their execution was flawless and with such precision that it almost seemed inhuman. With a set list that started with cuts from ‘Through Silver In Blood’ the hour plus set was a spectacular musical journey that captured moments from every album from that point to the present. Of course you can never satisfy everyone in the room, but if anyone found any room at all to complain about the set list that person obviously did not “get it”.
The spirit evoked this evening clung to my being and after my quick drive home I felt compelled to light some candles and put side 3 of ‘Honor Found In Decay’ on the turntable and try to recapture the magic bestowed upon me only an hour earlier. Thank you NEUROSIS for saving me several hundred dollars on plane ticket to wherever…But most importantly thank you for letting me in on your secret. (Josh Mosh)