Neurosis: Through Silver in Blood
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*Disclaimer: I have written this review in my head at least a dozen times. However, actually putting it down has been nigh unto impossible. Such is the task that stands before me.
Every once in a while, music comes along that leaves one completely gobsmacked. Such an one is Through Silver in Blood.
Not Neurosis' first album. Nor their first groundbreaking album either (I give that nod to Souls at Zero). However, it is their very finest album and in my opinion the most important metal release that you've never heard.
Beginning as a hardcore/punk band, it didn't take long for Neurosis to evolve into something much darker, much more inventive and much more influential. That evolution (which continues to this day) hit a peak with their fifth album, Through Silver in Blood, released in 1996. From the very first track, the titular song, Neurosis proves that they are unequaled in the metal world. Beginning slowly with ambient/industrial sounds, followed by tribal drumming, the song takes a full 2:45 to build to its first crescendo of drumming, guitar, bass, and guttural howls and tortured screams. From there it never lets up to the very end of the album.
That isn't to say that the entire album is one loud wall of cacophony. Rather, Neurosis truly perfected the ebb and flow of music. Songs rise and fall like the waves of the ocean. Moments of quiet tranquility are wiped out by torrents of noise and rage. When suddenly, you don't know if you can take anymore, the songs switch directions, offering another moment of peace. But the peace is perhaps even more sinister. It is foreboding, brooding, menacing. It gently lulls you, while hinting that something truly terrifying is coming.
Two sub 2 minute tracks of speaking and noise are the only moments of apparent respite amongst the other tracks, most of which are > 10 minutes long. Yet even these shorter tracks only serve to build on the disquiet the rest of the albums thrives on. They serve a greater purpose in constructing the album as a whole.
Every track is powerful, and the album ends on two monstrous tracks. "Aeon" builds slowly from a mournful, plaintive piano and string melody to a crushing, thundering mass of epic proportions. "Enclosure in Flame" finishes the album in a furious manner with Scott Kelly's tortured howls leaving your skin crawling as it gently fades to silence. This is an album that leaves and indelible mark on the listener.
Through Silver in Blood is the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It is Beethoven's 9th Symphony, bringing to a close the Classical period and ushering in the Romantic. It is a complete game changer. One comes out of the experience of listening to Through Silver in Blood a different type of music fan than one went in. Such is its import, its power, and its lasting legacy. There is no question that I listen to music differently now than before I experienced Neurosis in general, and this album in particular. It is, as I mentioned earlier in this review, the most important album you've never heard.
Final verdict: Adore it
Through Silver in Blood is a true essential album. It is epic in scope, with a breadth and depth that has yet to be rivaled in modern music. It is supremely influential to those who are willing to work their way through it (because it certainly takes work). I cannot recommend it highly enough, while readily recognizing that it will be a terrifying experience for many who listen to it.