Despite the fact that they’ve been treading the boards for almost as long as I’ve been alive, “Given To The Rising” is my first exposure to long-running, Progressive Sludge bruisers, NEUROSIS. Although I may be a relative newcomer to the band, I wouldn’t be much of a metalhead if I wasn’t aware of just how influential a group they are, not to mention the high regard in which they’re held by their fans. Hell, ask anyone remotely interested in the genre and they’ll pretty much tell you how these guys single-handedly kick-started the whole ambient/post-Metal scene. Taking all that into account I approached this album with high expectations, but also a small amount of trepidation.
According to the various press releases, and interviews I read leading up to the release of the album, “Given To The Rising” hearkens back to the rawer, heavier style of NEUROSIS’ early days, and, man, they weren’t kidding. I’m not sure how this stacks up to the band’s back catalogue, but this shit hits with all the force of a sledgehammer to the knackers. It may not be heavy in the traditional sense, but the band's dizzying array of oozing, molten riffs envelope the listener in a atmosphere so thick and oppressive you could practically roll around naked in it. One of the most impressive things is how subtly the songs shift from hulking, thundering drone, to introspective, soft ambience. The whole album ebbs and flows with a kind of ungainly, lumbering grace, and while that may sound awkward on paper, in action it is absolutely breathtaking. The icing on the cake is the vocals of Steve Von Til. He may not have the greatest set of pipes you’ll ever lay ears on, yet his gravel-throated intonations are bellowed with so much grit and passion you’ll be hanging on his every word.
The Steve Albini recording is admirably organic, yet, as anyone who is familiar with the bespectacled-producer-extraordinaire will know, quite raw. Personally, I find it fits the band’s sound perfectly. Each of the instruments is perfectly audible in the mix, and the guitar is painted in warm, vibrant tones; those sludgy, hypnotic riffs simply tower over the soundscape. I listened to this with my headphones on and, honestly, I could feel my skull gently vibrating against my brain.
I can’t even begin to imagine the skill, not to mention creativity, it takes to put together a record this compositionally tight. However, NEUROSIS have defied all my expectations and crafted something of rare and exceptional beauty, thunderously heavy, yet starkly emotional, and for that I applaud them.
(Online September 9, 2007)